Water sales famously peak in summer months but, thanks to trends and product innovation, it is no longer a simple category to manage. Priyanka Jethwa reports

The water category across convenience retail is booming, and with more shoppers turning to lower-sugar options, investing in a range of functional, fruit-flavoured and sparkling water variants is crucial. Over these two pages, we break down the six biggest trends in the water category, and find out from suppliers what it is that retailers need to know about them, including what you need to stock this summer. 

Functional Waters

What do you need to know about this category?

Gym junkies 

The functional water sub-segment is now worth more than £52m in the UK, and stocking products that highlight added benefits such as electrolytes and calcium can help attract shoppers looking to replenish after working out. This is according to Scott Meredith, UK sales director at Lucozade Ribena Suntory. “Lucozade Sport Fitwater is the second biggest functional water in the market and is designed to appeal to shoppers looking for a drink while exercising that has no sugar or calories,” he says. Jamie Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Actiph Water, says bottled water sales are now overtaking sales of colas for the first time in the UK. “Retailers can capitalise on this trend by being early adopters and stocking functional waters, for example, as more shoppers look for drinks that replenish.”

Millennial shoppers

Millennials are particularly interested in ‘quick health boosts’, according to Ben Gleave, founder at LyteWater. This means they are looking for ‘healthy’ options they can consume on the go to match their busy lifestyles. “Under-35s are the most enthusiastic group of functional drink shoppers, and are likely to pay more for these products. 44% of consumers said bottled water with functional benefits were worth paying more for,” he says. Amy Burgess, trade communications manager at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), says young shoppers increasingly want to stay hydrated, too. “Sport cap bottles are especially popular during the summer, as younger consumers look to hydrate when out and about on warm days,” she says. 

27.6%: Functional waters are driving growth in the water category as more shoppers search for natural energy alternatives, with the sub-category growing at 27.6% year on year 

Flavoured Waters

What do you need to know about this category?

Taste is all important

Alongside low-sugar options, taste still remains the number one priority for shoppers when choosing a soft drink within the water category, according to Adrian Troy, marketing director at Barr Soft Drinks. “Within retail, there is a growing trend for natural botanical and fruity flavours, something that has also been seen across other categories,” he says. Amelia Parker, brand marketing manager at Clearly Drinks, agrees with this, adding: “We’ve seen a 20% year-on-year rise in sales growth across flavours such as our Strawberry, Summer Fruits and Lemon & Lime 500ml.” She adds stocking four-packs is also important, as more people look for multipacks in convenience. “Our Summer Fruits, Strawberry and Lemon & Lime 500ml in four-packs have increased in sales by 27% in the past year.”

6%: The flavoured water category is growing at 6% year on year, and accounts for nearly one-third of all impulse water sales 

Low sugar

With the introduction of the sugar levy, coupled with growing shopper interest in staying fit and healthy, more consumers will be turning toward the water-plus category, in search for drinks that have a low sugar content. Trystan Farnworth, commercial director for convenience and impulse at Britvic, says: “Low-sugar waters offer an option to health-conscious consumers looking to stay refreshed throughout the day.” Amy Burgess, trade communications manager at CCEP, says offering low-sugar water-plus drinks also helps attract more parents looking for drinks for their children, and brands like Capri-Sun Fruity Water reside within this. “Capri-Sun Fruity Water is worth almost £2m. The brand is available in two no-sugar flavours, Mango-Passionfruit and Blackcurrant, which are a blend of 3% fruit juice with water.”

Sparkling Water

What do you need to know about this category?

Premiumisation 

One of this year’s biggest trends within the water-plus category is premiumisation, as demand for upmarket sparkling options increases. This, says Amelia Parker, brand marketing manager at Clearly Drinks, has led to growth in higher price points, with more shoppers willing to pay extra. Amy Burgess, trade communications manager at CCEP, says the flavoured sparkling water sub-category is popular among millennials, as this consumer group is increasingly health-conscious, but is also looking for new and exciting flavour options at the same time. “The category offers consumers an alternative to traditional carbonated soft drinks, combining low- and no-sugar with fruity and refreshing flavours, while still being water-based,” she says.

£82m: The water-plus category is worth £82m, and stocking a range of sparkling variants helps offer shoppers more variety 

Sparkling fruits

Offering fruity sparkling water options attracts shoppers looking for a version of a carbonated drink without the sugar content found in typical colas. Amy Burgess, trade communications manager at CCEP, says its Glacéau Smartwater sparkling flavours range is designed to appeal to people looking for a refreshing, sparkling drink. “The flavoured sparkling range is available in a 600ml bottle that’s ideal for busy, impulse shoppers,” she says. Trystan Farnworth, commercial director for convenience and impulse at Britvic, says its Aqua Libra range, available in 330ml formats, falls under the sugar levy threshold. “Across many categories in food and drink, we now often see smaller entrants, such as Aqua Libra, re-setting category rules with products that are both tasty and have a low sugar content,” he says.