Water wars: Many varieties of water are available in the market, but do we really need them?

By: | Published: April 29, 2018 1:08 AM

The packaged drinking water (still) market in India was valued at Rs 177.3 billion in 2017, with a sales volume of 13 billion litres.

There are so many different kinds of water available in the market today that the difference between packaged drinking water and mineral water is lost on most consumers.There are so many different kinds of water available in the market today that the difference between packaged drinking water and mineral water is lost on most consumers.

Drinking water was never a complicated task. But when the market is flooded with options, ranging from vitamin-enriched to alkaline water, and consumers have to choose beyond still and sparkling, the act of drinking water remains simple no more.

There are so many different kinds of water available in the market today that the difference between packaged drinking water and mineral water is lost on most consumers. Brands today offer water in as many variants as possible, starting with a healthy water option to one in environment-friendly packaging.

Clearly, the water wars are heating up. As per market research provider Euromonitor International, the packaged drinking water (still) market in India was valued at Rs 177.3 billion in 2017, with a sales volume of 13 billion litres—this includes both off-trade (supermarkets, retail outlets, etc) and on-trade (cafés, hotels, etc) channels. This category of the market grew at 25.7% CAGR in 2012-17, as per Euromonitor International. In the beverage segment, drinking water is the fastest-growing segment due to lack of safe drinking water in public places and an increasing number of health-conscious consumers seeking variety in the water they drink. But the idea gets a bit stretched at times.

Recently, mineral water brand Himalayan Sparkling introduced a limited-edition ‘sound cap’ for its sparkling mineral water bottles. When twisted open, the cap mimics the sound of wind from the Himalayas. The special-edition bottles are priced at Rs 110 (for 300 ml). The brand has, in the past, also launched Himalayan Orchard Pure, flavoured natural mineral water. “Over the past few years, packaged drinking water has been growing at approximately 9-10% per annum, but within that, we have seen the natural mineral water category grow much faster. The surge in the category has been fuelled by dynamic shifts in water consumption patterns, particularly amongst globally-aware Indians and expats,” says Kuttiah KS, vice-president and head of marketing, NourishCo Beverages, which markets Himalayan Sparkling. “A key driver for this trend is rising wellness and health awareness. Therefore, there’s a demand for products perceived to be devoid of pollutants and carrying the goodness of natural nutrients,” he adds.

‘Natural’ is the keyword for most sellers. VEEN—a Finnish brand of bottled water that’s offered in the premium HORECA sector (refers to sales through bars, restaurants, cafés, hotels and other catering establishments) in India—is sold in glass bottles and promises water infused with herbs. “We have been inspired by the ancient traditions of the Indian subcontinent and the Himalayas. Our new line of Ayurveda water has VEEN’s natural spring water infused with Ayurvedic plants, fruits and botanicals in four balancing blends: amla and tulsi; saffron, ginger and honey; apple and mint; and blackcurrant,” says Aman Gupta, chairman, VEEN.

Another new entrant in the market is blk., alkaline fulvic mineral water in a striking black colour, which claims to have 77 trace minerals along with electrolytes and antioxidants. “We have pure spring water from North America. The naturally black fulvic minerals and an all-natural process turn the water black,” says Dikshit Jhanb, director, blk. India. “It is premium alkaline water infused with a pH of 8+ at the source, which helps in balancing the acidity in the body. It’s ultra-hydrating since it gets absorbed at a higher rate than regular water due to the addition of electrolytes and minerals,” he adds. Priced Rs 260 for a 500-ml bottle, it can be found at premium retail outlets in India, such as Modern Bazaar and Foodhall, as well as wellness centres and hotels.

Gone are the days when water was just a means to quench one’s thirst. Today, those leading a fast-paced lifestyle in cities want more benefits from their glass of water. “The Indian consumer now sees bottled water not just as a means of quenching thirst, but expects functional benefits from it, including hydration, detoxification, etc… it’s also expected to be a source of minerals, electrolytes, and vitamins,” says Devchandan Mallick, research analyst, Drinks and Tobacco, Euromonitor International. And even though this category is still at a nascent stage right now, it’s evolving rapidly. “Consumers are experimenting with products that have an enhanced taste and, at the same time, provide them health benefits,” says Mallick.

So great is the market potential that even carbonated drinks brands are jumping onto the bandwagon. In December 2017, Coca-Cola India launched its global enhanced water brand, Glacéau Smartwater, which claims to be vapour-distilled water with electrolytes added for taste. Priced at Rs 50 for a 750-ml bottle, Coke has celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston and Kylie Minogue endorsing Smartwater in the West. Earlier, in August 2017, it had launched flavoured water drinks—lemon, zeera and orange—under its packaged water brand Kinley (priced at Rs 15 for a 250-ml bottle).

PepsiCo, which owns the packaged water brand Aquafina, also recently launched two flavoured water drinks—Aquafina Vitamin Splash Kiwi and Raspberry Mint—which are marketed as “fortified with vitamins” and metals such as selenium and zinc. The flavoured waters are available in 300-ml and 500-ml variants, priced at Rs 30 and Rs 50, respectively, and are currently available in all metros.

Nutritionists, however, have a word of caution. “All flavoured water will have some amount of artificial sweetener,” says Sonia Narang, a New Delhi-based nutritionist, who runs wellness clinics. “Vitamin-enriched water is only required by people who work out intensively, a replacement for the good old glucose water. On a day-to-day basis, however, you don’t need any vitamin-enriched water… if you are vitamin-deficient, you should consult a doctor,” she adds.

To maintain the acidic nature of the body, Narang suggests having fruits and salads. “Our body is acidic… so how would one know what amount of alkalinity we require? What if one over-drinks alkaline water?” she questions. Clearly, the consumers have to find some answers themselves.

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