By JENNIFER ZEGLER
Bottled water is the newest must-have accessory
The newest status symbol on the streets is not a designer purse, state-of-the-art gadget or luxury vehicle; it’s bottled water. Thirst quenchers and trendsetters alike are clutching bottles of water as the ultimate accessory.
“Water has moved from a commodity to a fashion item,” says Patrick Racz, chief operating officer of Icelandic Glacial, London. “It’s a status thing. When I go to New York or Los Angeles, you see people walking around holding a bottle of water. They’ll go to a meeting and put it in front of them with the label outward; it’s really turning into a fashion statement.”
|Top bottled waters (Individual brands)|
|% CHANGE VS. PRIOR YEAR||MARKET SHARE||% CHANGE VS. PRIOR YEAR|
|Source: Information Resources Inc., Total food, drug and mass merchandise (excluding Wal-Mart) for the 52 weeks ending July 16, 2006.|
The plethora of choices of waters has created niches, including premium waters. Whether it is the water’s origin, from Hawaii to Iceland; packaging, plastic orbs to glass squares; or purpose, benefiting charity or one’s health, the premium water category is expanding the boundaries of bottled water.
Since France’s Evian made its debut, a water’s origin has been an indication of its status. Destination brands Iceland Spring and Fiji Water both recently introduced new sizes for added portability. Icelandic Glacial also is part of the growing super-premium water category. To further differentiate itself, the Icelandic Glacial bottle is square with molded mountain peaks at the top and the label offers various landscape views.
“If you rotate the bottle, each of the four sides has a different Icelandic landscape on it,” Racz explains. “When the bottles are lined up on the shelf, it gives a landscape effect that has a one in 1,480,000 chance that the same six bottles will be lined up in a row.”
Ogo Oxygen Water by Verve Brands LLC, Memphis, Tenn., launched its oxygenated water in a blue-tinted rotund plastic bottle. And Utah’s Park City IceWater brand is sold in a flexible package with a silicone easy-turn cap.
A new differentiation among bottled waters is having a purpose that can vary from charity contributions to health benefits. Starbucks sells Ethos Water, which donates $0.05 from every bottle to global humanitarian water projects. For the more self-centered, products such as Aquamantra and H2Om promise mood benefits, and Jana Skinny Water, is fortified with an appetite suppressant.
A model flavor
Though the flavored water category still incorporates premium water with benefits, it too, is growing due to consumers’ desire for variety. With many companies offering fruit flavors, essence evocations and menthol mentions, flavored water enthusiasts have many options.
This year has featured much activity, with major players including Nestlé Pure Life and Coca-Cola’s Dasani adding fruity flavors. Tampico, known for its juices, launched tropically inspired flavored waters in gallon-sized packages. Tom First, co-founder of Nantucket Nectars, and Ed Slade, former president and chief executive officer of Fiji Water, teamed up to release O Ultra Premium Waters.
The current star in the category, Glaceau’s Vitaminwater announced a recent deal with India’s Tata Group. In a conference call, Glaceau Founder and Chief Executive Officer J. Darius Bikoff said he believes the deal will help expand distribution and take Vitaminwater and Smartwater to the level of Snapple and Gatorade. Bikoff also announced that the Whitestone, N.Y.-based company will begin offering 12-ounce bottles of Vitaminwater at Safeway and CVS stores for the school-age crowd. The company also settled its dispute with PepsiCo’s SoBe Life Water over similar-looking bottles.
Additionally, it is rumored that Coca-Cola is developing a competing product under the Odwalla trademark.
Also aiming for the health conscious, the Kellogg Co. will roll out Special K20 Protein Waters this fall. Available in Lemon Twist, Strawberry Kiwi and Tropical Blend flavors, each bottle has 5 grams of protein and 50 calories. The unique appeal of protein is one Kellogg’s looked into specifically, explains Roxanne Bernstein, senior brand manager of wellness innovation for the Battle Creek, Mich., company.
“K20 is the first broadly available brand of protein water,” Bernstein says. “Many waters on the market today are enhanced with vitamins or minerals; however, none of them draw on the benefits of protein, and we know from our research that many consumers are looking to add more protein to their diets. The new K20 protein waters offer a delicious, refreshing way to get more protein.”
For something slightly different, companies have created blends with benefits such as energy enhancing formulas and soothing mint. Hydrive Energy recently hit the market as the first energy drink made from spring water. Hydrive features caffeine, vitamins and electrolytes and is available in uniquely flavored Dragonfruit, Acai Berry and Casaba Lime varieties. Creating its own niche, Soma Beverage Co., San Francisco, added to its “mintwater” line with a Spearmint variety.
“The cooling sensation that you can only get from real mint is only available in Metromint,” says Scott Lowe, president of Soma Beverage Co. “We’re truly a functional beverage in the flavored water category because we have the added health benefits of mint.”
The more traditional flavored sparkling waters also are getting a boost. Pepsi-Cola offered new Berry Burst and Citrus Twist flavors of carbonated Aquafina. Clearly Canadian recently reformulated its Original Sparkling Waters in both regular and zero-calorie fruit flavors. And Cadbury is test marketing 7UP Breeze, a sparkling water beverage. The product is available in Watermelon, Lemon-Lime, Raspberry and Black Cherry and is likely to be launched nationwide early next year.
Hoping to move children away from high-sugar drinks, many companies have created kid-friendly waters. In addition to favorites such as Fruit Craze by Atlanta’s Meridian Beverages, smaller sized, vitamin- fortified waters are popping up in lunch boxes across the nation.
San Francisco’s Wateroos packaged water in the child-friendly box container and recently added Berry and Grape flavors. Nestlé Waters’ Ice Mountain aimed for kid appeal with the launch of its Aquapod, a rounded single-serve bottle molded for a child’s hands.
One classic way to appeal to kids is to use their favorite characters. Marvel Superheroes, including Spiderman, Batman and Superman in addition to Scooby-Doo and Bratz, made their debut on bottles of purified water from Kids Only LLC, Westborough, Mass. Canada’s Cott Corp. has licensed Disney and Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles” for use on kid-portion, resealable bottles of water. The sea-dwelling Nemo is available in purified drinking water while the superhero family “The Incredibles” is available in four flavors with added vitamins.
“Moms are looking for better-for-you beverages to address the child obesity epidemic,” says Steve LeVeau, director of marketing and category management for Cott Corp. “We wanted kids to drink plain water, but with our flavored waters, it gets kids interested. Partnering with Disney for ‘The Incredibles’ adds power and fun for kids.”
Flavor has the same appeal for adults as it does for kids. Both Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid brand and Altria Group’s Capri Sun launched flavored water products in flexible packaging. Newcomers Wild Waters, Hingham, Mass., and Crayola Color Coolers, from Advanced H20 LLC, Bellevue, Wash., use eye-catching hues to entice thirsty kids.
As in fashion there are fads and trends, but the vast growth of the bottled category is proving to be more than just one season’s style.