Got some bottle

Highland Spring bottled water

Local retailers in Scotland have a refreshing opportunity to soak up bottled water sales in 2022.

by Gaelle Walker


For Scottish local convenience retailer Dennis Williams, bottled water is a “massive” category, accounting for well over 10% of category sales in the winter months and rising to just shy of 20% in the summer when sales peak.

Hardly surprising then that he and wife Linda maintain a razor-sharp focus on the category all year round in a bid to squeeze every last drop out of its potential.

And Dennis is certainly not alone. In fact, according to Nestlé Waters, the water segment continues to be a “valuable source of sales” for convenience retailers across the country – making up the biggest segment in the soft drinks category and accounting for 26% of all soft drink volume sales.

Healthier living

Health has long-since been a key driver of bottled water sales and looks set to remain a motivating force in 2022, as shoppers keep a tight hold of many of the healthier habits adopted during the pandemic, with drinking more water chief among these according to Barr.

And despite the general trend towards healthier living, bottled water sales see their second biggest peak in the early part of the year, buoyed by New Year’s Resolutions to drink less alcohol, consume less sugar and exercise more.

Adrian Troy, Marketing Director at Barr Soft Drinks elaborates: “With 6.5 million people participating in Dry January, the demand for both bottled water and lower and no sugar soft drinks increases in the early part of the year.

“In-fact drinking more water is currently the number one healthy change that shoppers are looking to make,” he says.

And, judging by the fact that 62% of the population admit to still not drinking the recommended two litres of water per day according to Nestlé Waters, it’s an ambition that clearly spells a fluid opportunity for local retailers who can facilitate them doing so.

Key Numbers
  • The water segment accounts for 26% of all soft drink volume sales (Nestlé Waters)
  • 59% of people say they are now considering their health more when they shop (Britvic)
  • 67% of shoppers say it’s “important” to buy products with recyclable packaging (Trivium Packaging 2021 Global Buying Green Report)
  • Buxton has removed almost 12,000 tonnes of plastic by making its lightest-ever bottles of Buxton Water.
  • 69% of total plain water value sales come from on-the-go formats (Nestlé Waters)
  • 37% of shoppers purchasing soft drinks impulsively (Nestlé Waters)

Green goals

With sustainability also set to remain a key priority for shoppers in 2022, bottled water brands which clearly demonstrate their environmental credentials are likely to win a greater share of sales says Severine Hemms, Shopper Marketing Manager at Nestlé Waters.

“Sustainability has remained at the forefront of shoppers’ minds throughout the pandemic, with 77% of UK consumers saying that they try to act in a way that is not harmful to the environment. With consumers demanding products that can help limit their environmental impact, it’s more important than ever for retailers to consider the green credentials of the products they have on offer.”

Buxton’s on-the-go range is now completely made from 100% recycled plastic and is also fully recyclable.

It also features the additional “I am made from other bottles” messaging – key to helping it communicate its sustainability street cred, Hemms adds.

And Buxton is not the only brand out there that is seeking to quash the use of virgin plastic.

Highland Spring’s ‘Eco Bottle’ is also made from 100% recycled plastic, with the bottle, label and cap also all 100% recyclable.

Available across still and sparkling variants and in 50cl, 75cl and kids’ formats, the bottle design was helping the brand inch closer and closer to its goal of creating a “closed loop” in which no plastic was wasted and no new plastic was created, Highland Spring said.

Scotland’s DRS to go live in 2023

Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) is now set to go live on 16 August 2023.

The scheme previously had an implementation date of July 2022 however this was postponed due to Covid-19.

However, despite the delay to the start of implementation, the Scottish Government still wants the scheme to meet its original target of achieving 90% collection rates by 2024.

The target will now come in the scheme’s second year of operation, not the third, as had originally been stated, giving the industry far less time to achieve the goal.

The Scottish Government also said it hoped to work “work with retailers” on a phased introduction to the scheme starting from this summer.

Welcoming the delay to the scheme’s implementation, the Scottish Grocers Federation said: “We are concerned about the minister’s statement that retailers will begin to roll out a phased approach to DRS in the summer of 2022. We need urgent clarity on what this will involve, how the Scottish government will support it, and what the objectives of this approach will be.”

Formats

With spring and the promise of warmer weather on the way, demand for on-the-go natural mineral water formats is also expected to make a concerted comeback in 2022.

“While Covid-19 has impacted how people shop for smaller water formats, we’re confident that on-the-go formats will recover,” Hemms adds. “69% of total plain water value sales come from on-the-go formats, so it’s essential that retailers stock the right products and brands to meet the needs of on-the-go consumption.”

Retailer view

“Bottled water is a hugely important category to our store, especially since we have invested so heavily in our food-to-go offer and have now become a real destination for this. Bottled water sales are strong all year round but they do obviously peak on warm and sunny days.

We offer a wide range of formats, and all – aside from our six-pack multi-packs – are chilled, which is absolutely essential.

Our 750ml and 500ml formats are our biggest sellers and in that order but 1.5l bottles are a close third. These larger formats tend to be bought by workmen who need a larger format to see them through most of the day and often they will buy a large 1.5l bottle of water plus an energy drink too.

As far as flavours are concerned, there’s now a fairly even split between plain bottled water and flavoured variants proving that flavour really is key.

Promotions do help to drive sales too and fortunately there do tend to be quite a few promotions in the bottled water category, especially at the start of the year when many shoppers seek to eat and drink more healthily.

Sustainability is also a growing concern for shoppers though and shoppers are clearly interested in brands that highlight their environmental credentials such as bottles made for recycled plastic that are also recyclable.”

Dennis Williams, Premier Broadway Convenience Store, Edinburgh

Flavour

And while healthy mindsets look set to deliver a fresh rush of bottled water sales in 2022, retailers should overlook flavoured variants at their peril, Barr’s Troy warns.

While upping their water consumption remains the biggest healthy change that shoppers want to make, almost half of Brits say they prefer the taste of flavoured drinks to plain water, he adds.

“These trends lead to a massive incremental opportunity for retailers, where shoppers are looking for lower calorie soft drinks that don’t compromise on taste and give them a fruity flavour hit.”

With its “high taste, low calorie” proposition, Barr’s Rubicon Spring offered the “perfect bridge” between the healthiness of water and the taste of carbonated fruit drinks, he adds.

The brand, which combines sparkling spring water and fruit juice, with 15 calories or less per bottle, saw a 66% increase in Drink Now sales within its 500ml range after restrictions eased in 2021, while its Take Home sales grew by 139% over the course of 2021 as more shoppers consumed the brand at home.

Top tips to help bottled water sales flow
  • Natural mineral water is the largest segment of the soft drinks’ category (accounting for 26% of total soft drinks volume sales), so it is vital that retailers dedicate enough space in their chillers for water.
  • Retailers should allocate a quarter of their chiller space to natural mineral water, before grouping by still, sparkling and flavoured to make the fixture easy to shop.
  • Temperatures start to rise from April and last until September, so retailers should take the time now to prepare their soft drink and natural mineral water offering ahead of the warmer weather.
  • Driving the visibility of water in store outside of the chiller is crucial to ensuring strong water sales throughout Spring and Summer.
  • With 37% of shoppers purchasing soft drinks impulsively, secondary displays help drive visibility and prompt shoppers to purchase as they journey around stores.
  • To drive incremental natural mineral water sales, merchandise water next to other impulse and on-the-go categories to boost cross-category sales.
  • There’s a great sales opportunity for retailers to upsell by placing natural mineral water near chilled food-to-go, confectionery and snacks or coffee machines. The top products that are bought alongside water include energy drinks, and crisps and snacks.

(Source: Nestlé Waters)