These are exciting times for the bottled water industry. Bottled water sales and consumption continue to grow and we expect this trend to continue. Water as a healthy drink choice and bottled water as the healthiest packaged beverage option is also getting increased and well-deserved attention.
Bottled water is also gaining in popularity against other less healthy packaged beverages at an increasing rate. Bottled water consumption and sales growth in the U.S. in 2013 builds on 2012’s strong performance, as consumers continue to make their voices heard in the marketplace. Preliminary 2013 data from Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC) indicates that total U.S. bottled water consumption increased to 10.1 billion gallons, up 4.3 percent from 2012. In addition, per-capita consumption is up 3.3 percent in 2013, with every person in America drinking an average of 31.8 gallons of bottled water. Bottled water sales increased by 4.1 percent, now totaling $12.3 billion (wholesale dollars).
The national Drink Up! campaign, a joint effort between First Lady Michelle Obama and the Partnership for a Healthier America that encourages people to drink more water more often, is drawing attention to the important role that water plays in everyone’s lives.
When compared to other packaged beverage categories, it becomes clear that bottled water’s growth can be attributed to a "shift-in-consumption" trend with the soft drink category experiencing its eighth consecutive year of volume loss. BMC CEO Michael Bellas predicts that bottled water could overtake soda as America’s most popular packaged beverage within the next decade. Bottled water is currently the number two beverage product. According to BMC’s Gary Hemphill, senior vice president information services, “All signs point to U.S. consumers’ already displayed thirst for bottled water continuing in the years ahead. Changes in per capita consumption indicate persistent interest in a product that consumers embrace as a healthful alternative to other beverages.”
The healthy beverage choice
One of the simplest changes a person can make is to switch to drinking water instead of other beverages that are heavy with sugar and calories. While simple, making water your beverage of choice is also impactful to your overall health and lifestyle choices. In fact, a November 2013 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, Obesity — United States, 1999–2010, finds that, while increases in obesity prevalence have slowed or even stopped in recent years for some groups, it is still a pressing concern for the U.S. population as a whole. This is particularly true for households without regular access to effective nutritional and wellness education and healthier food options.
These findings also support similar research released in 2012 by the Institute of Medicine and the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, showing that one-third of American adults are overweight and another one-third is obese. In addition, the CDC observes that since 1960, the prevalence of adult obesity in the U.S. has nearly tripled, from 13 percent in 1960-1962 to 36 percent during 2009-2010. The CDC also finds that since 1970, the prevalence of obesity has more than tripled among children.
The report goes on to indicate that one contributing factor to the condition’s persistence is, “obesity-promoting environments that limit opportunities for physical activity, encourage excess television viewing and passive screen time and provide easy access to high calorie, low nutrient foods and beverages, including those high in added sugars and solid fats.”
The report also states that, “certain early child care education initiatives promote active play and healthier beverage and food offerings such as drinking water and fruits and vegetables. These initiatives can address disparities by providing age-appropriate health curricula, parental outreach, increased healthier foods and beverages served and training and technical support for staff on menu planning and food preparation for children of low socioeconomic status and children who hold immigrant and/or refugee status, among other high priority groups.”
The CDC’s findings note that one important way to help reduce rates of obesity includes making healthy choices, such as healthy eating and active living opportunities, easily accessible and available to everyone. Drinking water, whether bottled, tap or filtered, continues to be one of the easiest choices people can make to have an immediate impact on caloric intake. For those who want to eliminate or moderate calories, sugar, caffeine, artificial flavors or colors and other ingredients from their diet, choosing water is the right choice — whether from a filtered source or in a bottle.
Bottled water is always a smart decision and a healthy choice when it comes to beverage options. Indeed, research consistently shows that making proactive and healthy lifestyle choices from an early age can help encourage individuals to lead more active and healthful lives.
Drinking zero-calorie beverages, such as water, instead of sugary drinks is regularly cited as a key component of a more healthful lifestyle. Promoting greater consumption of water from all sources, including bottled water, will support the efforts of communities striving for a healthier lifestyle. Notably, research also shows that if bottled water isn’t available, 63 percent of people will choose soda or another sugared drink — not tap water.
There are many reasons for consumer enthusiasm for bottled water, including its association with healthfulness, convenience, safety and value. In addition, many consumers prefer the taste of bottled water. Bottled water in the U.S. is comprehensively regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a packaged food product and it provides a consistently safe and reliable source of drinking water. By federal law, the FDA regulations governing the safety and quality of bottled water must be at least as stringent as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards that govern tap water. And, in some very important cases like lead, coliform bacteria and E. coli, bottled water regulations are substantially more stringent.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, on average, one can of a soft drink accounts for about 140 calories. Consuming a soft drink every day can translate into about 14 pounds of weight gain a year. If you drink three and half soft drinks per day, you could gain one pound per week.
The good news is that more people are making the connection and opting for water instead of less healthy beverages. In fact, since 1998, approximately 73 percent of the growth in bottled water consumption has come from people switching from carbonated soft drinks, juices and milk to bottled water.
Supporting a strong public water system
As a supporter of water, our industry firmly believes that all efforts to further increase the availability of clean, safe drinking water in cities, towns, on college campuses, in America’s national parks, in the workplace and at home should be encouraged. Bottle refilling stations and water fountains throughout communities are an excellent opportunity to help promote healthy hydration. But, access to bottled water is also a key component of this effort and should not be slighted or overlooked when discussing water’s role in a healthier lifestyle.
Banning or restricting access to bottled water in the marketplace directly impacts the right of people to choose the healthiest beverage on the shelf. And for many, bottled water is a critical alternative to other packaged beverages, which are often less healthy. Bottled water must therefore be available wherever packaged beverages are sold.
The bottled water industry also supports a strong public water system, which is important for providing citizens with clean and safe drinking water. In fact, many bottled water companies use public water sources for their products. This water is then treated using a multi-barrier approach which may include one or more of the following: Reverse osmosis, distillation, microfiltration, carbon filtration, ozonation and ultraviolet (UV) light; then, the product is bottled under sanitary conditions.
Moreover, the water from public water systems is often compromised after emergency situations or natural disasters (e.g., hurricanes, floods, chemical spills, tornados, fires or boil alerts). During these times, bottled water is a necessary and reliable alternative to deliver clean, safe drinking water.
A good environmental steward
The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) released a water use ratio study in 2013, showing that the amount of water used to produce bottled water products is less than all other types of packaged beverages — on average, only 1.39 liters per liter of finished bottled water (including the liter of water consumed).
Bottled water recycling rates are also increasing. At nearly 39 percent, the recycling rate for single-serve PET plastic bottled water containers, commonly 16.9 ounces (half-liter), has more than doubled between 2003 and 2011. And, bottled water bottles are the most frequently recycled PET beverage containers in curbside recycling programs.
All bottled water containers are 100 percent recyclable and PET plastic bottled water bottles also use less plastic than any other packaged beverage. Between 2000 and 2011, the average weight of a 16.9-ounce PET plastic bottle declined 48 percent, saving 3.3 billion pounds of PET resin since 2000. Many bottled water companies are already using recycled plastic in their bottles and some are producing 100 percent recycled PET water bottles.
Despite activist efforts to ban or restrict the sale or purchase of bottled water, the sales and consumption of this safe, healthy and convenient product continue to grow. Promoting greater consumption of water from all sources, including bottled water, will support the efforts of consumers striving for a healthier lifestyle. Bottled water must therefore be available wherever packaged beverages are sold.
An advocate for bottled water
Our organization continually works to ensure that the bottled water industry’s voice is heard on the many important issues affecting our members.
Implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) continues to be a central issue for us and we remain heavily involved in the process to see it fully operational, including submitting comments on proposed regulations to implement FSMA and making sure that our members are prepared to comply with them. EPA’s ENERGY STAR Version 2.0 Water Cooler Specification, scheduled to take effect last month, is one of the most pressing federal issues facing IBWA members and as a result of our efforts, EPA provided relief from some of the most burdensome aspects of implementing the new standard.
At the state level, we have opposed bottle deposit bills and tax proposals, labeling and bottled water bans and we also continue to defend the safety of Bisphenol-A (BPA).
The bottled water industry has a great story tell. We continue to work hard to create a favorable business and public affairs climate for the bottled water industry and to protect and advance the interests of all bottled water companies. You can learn more about all these issues at www.bottledwater.org.
Chris Hogan is the vice president of communications for the International Bottled Water Association. Previously, he was with the American Gas Association, first as the director of investor relations and then as its director of communications. Chris holds an MBA and Master of International Management from the University of Maryland University College and a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Northeastern University. Chris also holds the IOM association and nonprofit executive certification.