The pandemic in 2020 positively impacted off-trade volume sales of bottled water in Western Europe. Stockpiling during the lockdown periods, and a consumer preference for larger packages and healthier soft drinks helped the category to grow, although concerns regarding sustainability were a hindrance to sales of bottled water. Regarding specific categories, flavoured and functional bottled water have seen the fastest growth, with a range of new products being developed.
Over the review period, off-trade volume sales fluctuated. After increases until 2018, consumption of bottled water decreased in 2019, due to the maturity of the category in some markets and the plastic backlash. However, off-trade volume sales spiked during lockdowns in 2020. Consumer stockpiling, higher sales of larger bottles, strong demand for healthier soft drinks and the prioritisation of cheaper products played in favour of the category in 2020.
As bottled water is perceived as a pure and natural soft drink, it has advantages when competing against other categories. Drinkers of carbonates and juices increasingly see carbonated bottled water and flavoured bottled water as options to quench their thirst, while functional bottled water has emerged as a healthier alternative for consumers of sports and energy drinks.
The use of plastic is a barrier to bottled water consumption. As the sustainability trend expands and consumers become more environmentally conscious, new packaging options are likely to emerge. Materials such as r-PET, cardboard and aluminium might become more common, as well as alternative ways of drinking water, such as filters and refilling stations.
Despite their current low volume sales, functional and flavoured bottled water are categories to watch during the forecast period. The health and wellness wave that pre-dated the pandemic is expected to strengthen after the surge of COVID-19. As consumers become more attentive to their wellbeing, flavoured and functional bottled water are likely to see innovation and new product developments in the coming years.
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