UK plain water market dips after 2018 heatwave

After a searing summer in 2018, UK sales of plain water slipped back in 2019, but were ahead of results for 2017, according to the new 2020 UK Plain Water Report from the food and drink experts Zenith Global.

Volumes excluding water coolers and dispensers dipped 3.1% to 3,500 million litres in 2019, while value fell a more modest 2.5% to £2.7 billion.

“Healthy hydration has become firmly established as a driver for UK consumer behaviour over the past 20 years,” commented Zenith Global Chairman Richard Hall. “A hot summer always boosts sales, but everyday hydration is undoubtedly gaining impetus.

“Plastic concerns, however, have dented growth recently and consumers now have more refill options as well as dispense machines available. The industry has been energetic in lightweighing bottles, increasing recycling and using recycled content, but it may be some years before plastic has fully answered the sustainability call.”

Among other findings of the new Zenith Global report:

  • The average supermarket price of plain water is 31 pence per litre, reducing to 23 pence per litre for retailer own labels.
  • The average UK consumer buys one litre of plain water each week, 52.5 litres per year.
  • 45% of the population are consumers.
  • Spring water has risen to a 40% volume share, just behind natural mineral water on 41%.
  • Still water accounts for 85% of volume and sparkling water 15%.
  • The top five brands by volume are Highland Spring, Evian, Nestlé Pure Life, Buxton and Volvic.
  • Retailer own labels have grown to a 43% volume share.
  • PET accounts for 97% of volume, with 11% having more than 50% recycled content.
  • Imports represented 15% of 2019 volumes.

“The coronavirus outbreak has made hydration even more important and boosted stockpiling sales in March, but the absence of hotel, restaurant, pub and travel sales during the lockdown will subdue the market in 2020. Over time, the market will surely recover its growth momentum,” concluded Mr Hall.

The UK Plain Water Report 2020 examines the critical factors shaping the market, including production, imports and exports, leading companies and brands, packaging dynamics and distribution from 2014 with forecasts to 2024.