Is water the new soft drink?

As I previously reported, there is plenty of innovation in the soft drinks industry; some of this stems from the introduction of the sugar levy and some from an increasing awareness of the impact the right (or wrong) drink can have on your health and weight. The Grocer reported on 19 August that sales of bottled water have overtaken sales of cola in the UK for the first time. Shoppers bought 1.77 billion litres of bottled water over the 52 week period in contrast to 1.72 billion litres of cola. With the likes of Buxton Spring, Evian and Volvic leading the charge, it is not surprising that it is the most established brands consumers new to the bottled water sector turn to; there is something comforting in a recognised established brand.

The opportunity for bottled water manufacturers to expand on this sector growth is huge. So what should consumers expect to see? Put simply, more choice. Manufacturers will extend product ranges which offer more taste options rather than just plain water; moving on to promote water enhanced with vitamins and supplements and mineral water fortified with electrolytes. Consumers can also expect the creation of a basic and premium water market using price and packaging to dissect the market. Imagine the current layout of a supermarket aisle for cordial and the space currently dedicated to the different brands, flavours and price brackets replaced with water. If the bottled water industry follows projected forecasts, customers will have the choice of plain water, mineral water, aerated water, flavoured water, large bottles for sharing, individual on the go bottles, premium water in glass bottles, branded water and super markets own labelling.

This only considers development around the actual product; there is also huge scope for innovation around the packaging.  The industry itself has recognised a need for sustainability. The enthusiasm for the product could be adversely impacted by concerns over the environmental price being paid to consume bottled water. Balancing the increased demand with concerns over single use plastic bottles creates an obvious opportunity for product innovation for the savvy water bottle manufacturer. One manufacturer facing this issue head-on is Skipping Rocks Lab, a London-based startup developing innovative sustainable packaging. The company has developed a spherical, flexible packaging derived from plants and seaweed. The product, ‘Ooho’, is a biodegradable bubble which mimics the skin of a fruit giving consumers the convenience of a one-use plastic bottle, which results in reduced environmental impact using cheaper materials than plastic.

It’s clear that the smaller players aren’t far behind the market leaders in chasing for their share of this growing sector. However it is far from over for the big brands. They continue to keep their position in the public’s conscious with new products, creative advertising and celebrity endorsements. One such company, Smart Water, combines both these approaches; it recently ran an advertising campaign, ‘Be not Bland!’, which set out to change the public’s perception of water by quite literally broadcasting it’s advert upside down, and using American actress Jennifer Anniston as a celebrity ambassador.

So when will this market reach saturation point? Currently consumer demand is high, driving multiple opportunities for innovation around water as a product as well as the packaging associated with it. In the future will we all be drinking our water from a biodegradable bubble or will there be branded water fountains to refill our reusable water bottles? Will we get bored of water and revert to the sugary drinks? One thing is clear: there are opportunities for innovators. Any resulting products or branding can be protected through an array of intellectual property rights whether it is patenting a new manufacturing process for a chemical-free reusable plastic bottle, protecting the shape of a re-usable bottle, or looking at joint collaborative branding. Our experienced team of IP advisers are here and willing to support all creative thinkers. Let the innovation flow freely!