Bottled water continues to face challenges, as sales remain sluggish in food stores. Current sales trends mark a big change from the early to the mid-2000s, when the U.S. bottled water category grew so much it became second only in size to the carbonated soft drink category. Bottled water volume grew by 10.8% in 2005, according to market research firm Beverage Marketing Corp.
But then the category became a victim of the recession. Water volume declined by 1% in 2008 and by 2.5% in 2009, according to Beverage Marketing. That’s because the weak economy motivated many Americans to save money by refilling reusable water bottles rather than buying new ones, according to a Harris Interactive poll conducted in January. The online survey of 2,576 adults showed that 34% switched to a refillable water bottle instead of buying bottled water. Another 10% said they were considering it. Concerns about the environmental impact of PET bottles in landfills also affected the category. MOM’s Organic Market, Rockville, Md., even went so far as to eliminate all bottled water and other plastics from its stores as part of a “Battle the Bottle” campaign.
But the worst may be over, according to Beverage Marketing. Now that there are signs of an economic recovery, consumers may go back to buying more bottled water. Likewise, water marketers have introduced light-weight packaging that has less of an environmental impact. The category could also benefit from First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign and rising consumer demand for healthier beverages.