F&B Retail: Water, now premium, tasty and ‘healthy’

While bottled water is a need-based purchase, the functional and flavoured water category is trying to find room to grow in India.

F&B Retail: Water, now premium, tasty and ‘healthy’
F&B Retail: Water, now premium, tasty and ‘healthy’

An Indian consumer might hardly exhibit brand loyalty in the bottled water category, seen as a necessity after all. But within the umbrella of bottled/packaged water, functional or flavoured water is an evolving segment — albeit niche. Consumers opting for functional water are perhaps looking to supplement a healthy lifestyle, yet are not opting for a complete shift to the category.

Mintel estimates that the market for bottled drinking water in India was `9,083 crore in 2017. Ranjana Sundaresan, senior research analyst, Mintel, points out that functional water has a miniscule share in the bottled water market. Between 2013 and 2017, about 15% of bottled water launches in India stated they had added vitamins or minerals. In the same period, 28% of those launches were flavoured, she provides.

Going beyond thirst

Largely, flavoured water is infused with fruits or herbs whereas functional or fortified water tends to offer alkalinity or added nutrients. G7 Beverages’ Alkalen alkaline water retails at `60 (per litre). It largely targets 25-40 year-olds, but is seeing traction among 40-50 year-olds as well and especially the ones prone to acidity or lethargy. Online is the primary sales channel, accounting for 60% of sales for the brand. Within this, Amazon is the biggest channel contributing 35-40% with the rest divided between its own website and other online retail platforms.

Gaurav Nainani, founder, G7 Beverages, informs that the brand has recently rolled out a monthly, quarterly and half yearly subscription model exclusively on its website. He further shares, “Sometime this year, we plan to roll out a new SKU for the luxury segment which will only be available in five-star hotels to compete with sparkling water.”

Now consider NourishCo Beverages, which offers Himalayan Orchard Pure as its flavoured mineral water available at Starbucks outlets and online. Kuttiah KS, VP and head of marketing, NourishCo Beverages shares that packaged water has been growing at 8-10% per annum and soft drinks have been growing at 4-5%. Its Tata Gluco Plus (TGP) contains glucose, electrolytes and a ‘fruit juice formulation’. Kuttiah notes, “Both products have unique wellness propositions that are driving growth. TGP’s great value equation is driving growth.” It retails at `10 (200 ml). In addition to Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, it now sees promising traction in Odisha.

Infuze (part of Shreeyam Foods), a much smaller player in the flavoured water space, sponsors events such as marathons, corporate tournaments and college events. The brand sees 5-10% conversions after products have been sampled at events. Priced at `20 (500 ml) and `10 (200 ml), it is aimed at the mass segment.

For this category, traction can come from institutional sales. “In the initial stages, tie-ups and institutional channels will work best for functional water offerings rather than retail and modern trade channels,” Akshay Solanki, promoter and director, Infuze, says. “To that end, we have tie-ups with hotels.”

A sip of luxury

On the premium end, there is UAE-based Malaki which retails the Malaki Alkaline water at Rs 60 (500 ml) and the Malaki Gold 24K Luxury Water at `599 (375 ml). HoReCa (hotels, restaurants and cafés) plays an important role in raising awareness and encouraging first purchases in this category.

The same is true for Malaki as well where apart from direct consumption it is also used as a mixer for alcoholic beverages. Mohit Bhatia, founder, Malaki, notes that western markets have the propensity to spend on health and wellness. “In India, this is a niche for people that are health conscious and affluent. We have seen early adoption by sportspeople, celebrities and HNIs for alkaline water, along with adoption from hospitals for cancer patients.” Malaki’s gift offering, Gold 24K Luxury Water, was developed specifically for Rolls-Royce’s clientele, launched in late March this year internationally. In India, it was rolled out two months back. It has, since March, assumed a permanent position in the portfolio with a majority of consumption happening in palace hotels across Rajasthan and Hyderabad, aside from being a gifting option.

The Indian market has seen bigger players in this category attempt an entry in the past but with little luck. B’lue ran its course some years ago. Narang Group now has O’cean back in the market. Coca-Cola went the premium way by bringing Glaceau Smartwater to India late last year. To get volumes at a mass scale, aggressive consumer adoption is required which essentially is a habit change.

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