A Twist On Refreshment

Both bottled water and sports drinks are thirst quenchers that continue to be staples in the convenience channel.

According to research firm Mintel, 83% of U.S. consumers drink unflavored still bottled water, compared with 82% drinking tap water. Flavored still bottled water was consumed by 48% of those surveyed, and 46% sought out both unflavored and flavor-enhanced still bottled water.

The report, “Bottled Water U.S. January 2017,” also indicated that 17% of U.S. consumers drink flavored sparkling bottled/canned water frequently, compared with 16% preferring both unflavored and flavored enhanced still bottled water.

Promotions tend to have a big impact on sales for both bottled water and sports drinks.

“In the grocery channel, a deal may promote 10 beverage bottles for $10 or $1 per bottle, whereas in c-stores, a buy-one-get-one offer is only good for those who buy multiple products, with the first beverage at full price and the second either reduced or free. It’s about moving more units through and increasing the rings,” said Marylou Mendez, chief financial officer at Mendez Automotive Services Plaza Chevron Service Center, based in Costa Mesa, Calif. “We do a lot with Smartwater, our No. 1 seller that has a year-round promotion of buy a liter at full price and get a second for 50 cents.”

The retailer also carries Core water, which is experiencing increasing sales, as well as another top seller, Gatorade. The latter is offered in a two-for-one deal, with lemonade, lemon-lime and fruit punch flavors selling best, along with the newer cucumber-lime line.

In addition to promotions, Mintel’s report confirmed that the environmental impact has had an effect on consumption of bottled water. Consumers prefer reusable packaging for these beverages as well as biodegradable materials.

BOTTLING UP SALES
Still, 85% of consumers surveyed recently by Mintel said they drank bottled water in the past three months, compared with 82% for coffee and 75% for tea. Fruit-based waters were consumed by 41% of respondents in the past three months.

“C-store consumers are more likely to go for healthier flavored waters, as these offer something different than the tap,” said Terri-Lynn Woods, a convenience store consultant, based in Toronto, Canada. “Also, those looking for added nutrients are seeking out Vitaminwater and other brands with functional ingredients.”

Mintel’s report confirmed this, as 83% of those surveyed said they are looking for some sort of nutritional or functional benefit with bottled water. Even big beverage makers are paying attention. For example, PepsiCo is pushing its premium water brand LIFEWTR.

Larger beverage manufacturers are seeking to carve out a niche for water similar to that of the beer companies for microbrews. This may be the next category frontier.

“Like craft beers, water branding is focusing on the root of the product, and regional brands are coming to the forefront in c-stores,” said Woods. “This is in line with the overall local trends and focus on more healthful eating.”

While bottled water had more than $4 billion in c-store sales in the 52 weeks ending Dec. 25, 2016, by comparison, sports drinks clocked in at about $3 billion, according to Chicago-based IRI. For the latter, this was a 5.5% jump in sales from a year prior, compared with bottled water’s 7.5% increase.

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