A rebounding economy as well as convenience and a healthy image have helped bottled water sales recover from years of decline in 2008 and 2009, according to Chicago-based Mintel’s U.S. “Bottled Water” report released in March. “Following sales declines of 2.8 percent in 2008 and 5.4 percent in 2009, the bottled water market has rebounded to positive growth each year since 2010,” the report stated. “This rebound suggests not only at least a minor return in purchasing power but also the appeal of bottled water as a convenient part of a healthier lifestyle.”

Mintel estimated that 2012 sales of bottled water increased 6.8 percent for approximately $13.2 billion. Although the market research firm forecasts continued annual growth, it will be at lower levels than the 6.8 percent estimated for 2012, it says. With these slightly lower increases, Mintel forecasts bottled water sales to reach $15.5 billion by 2017.

Chicago-based Information Resources Inc. (IRI) reports that the overall bottled water category increased 3.7 percent versus the prior-year period for approximately $11.5 billion in the 52 weeks ending May 19 in U.S. supermarkets, drug stores, mass market retailers, military commissaries, and select club and dollar retail chains. Mintel reported that although it has lost some market share since 2011, Stamford, Conn.-based Nestlé Waters North America, a division of Nestlé S.A., still makes up one-third of the overall bottled water market. The next largest manufacturer was private label at 26 percent, followed by The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, at 15 percent, and Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo at 11 percent. Both The Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo have lost some market share as well, while private label has increased, the report stated.

For consumer purchases, it comes down to value of the branded product compared with private label, said Jonas Feliciano, beverage industry analyst for Chicago-based Euromonitor International, in Beverage Industry’s October 2012 issue. “The key for brands is [that] they’re going to have to show why they’re worth the premium price,” he said.

One segment that has been making a splash in the bottled water category is sparkling/mineral water, which saw sales increase 32 percent for the 52 weeks ending May 19, IRI reports. Although the convenience/PET still and jug/bulk bottled water segments reported growth in 2011 and 2012, sparkling outpaced both with 16.3 percent growth in 2011 and a 34 percent increase in 2012, according to Mintel’s report. “The segment offers a closer parity for consumers looking to trade away from carbonated soft drinks or other high-sugar drinks due to the carbonation and frequently low calorie count,” the report stated. Even with the strong growth numbers, the segment accounts for approximately 9 percent of the overall category, Mintel reported.

The segment continues to see new releases enter the market including Preston, Wash.-based TalkingRain’s Sparkling Ice brand, which released Peach Nectarine and Crisp Apple flavors earlier this year and most recently Strawberry Lemonade, Raspberry Lemonade and Lemonade with Tea flavors to complement the brand’s Classic Lemonade flavor, which launched last year. LaCroix, a brand of Sundance Beverage Co., a division of National Beverage Corp., Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., launched its ninth flavor last year: Peach-Pear.