UK water dispensers return to growth

The UK water dispense industry proved its resilience in 2020, losing only 3% of its customer base during the pandemic, according to the latest findings from Zenith Global, the food and drink experts, as presented to the Water Dispenser & Hydration Association in a webinar for members on 22 April.

The total number of water dispensers in December 2020 was estimated by Zenith to be 840,000.

• Bottled water dispenser units fell by 8% to 38% of the total.

• Point of use mains water dispenser units dipped by 2% and increased their share to 39%, overtaking bottled for the first time.

• Integrated tap system installations grew by 4% to reach a 23% share.

“With over 80% of bottled units in places of work, it’s inevitable that the hardest hit was in water sales volumes, which dropped by 29%,” commented Zenith Chairman Richard Hall. “This led to overall revenue for the industry declining by 15% to £160 million.

“Despite this, Zenith is forecasting a nearly complete bounce back in 2021, followed by renewed growth in the next few years. We expect the number of water dispensers to exceed 900,000 for the first time in 2024.”

Among other findings by the Zenith research team, pricing has remained stable. Domestic use of water dispensers rose, but not to the extent of other home delivery services.

“Consumers have definitely become more interested in the health benefits of better hydration wherever they are,” continued Mr Hall. “They are also increasingly interested in dispense and refill solutions in preference to single use packaging. Bottled water dispensers might regain momentum if more consumers realised the bottles are often collected and refilled as many as 20 times,” he concluded.

“We all know that 2020 was a tough year for the industry,” added WHA chairman Jon Wicks. “However, hydration continues to be essential for workforce wellbeing.  With WHA members offering high quality sustainable hydration solutions, we are confident of a significant bounce back in 2021/22.”