Trends set to rescue packaged water

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Andy Wardlaw, Chief Ideas Officer

07 Apr, 2021 | 3 minute read

Predicted rises in home working are bad news for sales of packaged water. In a new collaboration between MMR Group and thefoodpeople, we uncover innovation from around the world that shows how brands are fighting back against the kitchen tap.

How we access water has changed considerably since humanity was plunged into a global pandemic. Here in the UK, the value share of single serve bottled water has fallen from 45% to just 36% of category sales. By December 2020, total packaged water had shrunk by £148m.

Quoted in the Financial Times, one London-based lawyer working from home said, “I thought I wouldn’t be able to get used to the taste of tap water compared with bottled, but I did, within a month.”

And herein lies the issue for a global category that only recently overtook sales of carbonated soft drinks.

The sharp increase in home working (and corresponding reduction in on-the-go occasions) plus rising concerns about plastic represent mighty barriers to growth. And investors are getting twitchy.

No wonder, then, that Nestle sold its North American water business late last year. But then it did something unexpected. It bought premium alkaline water brand Essentia, which the company CEO said represented a ‘far more structurally attractive space.’

'Pure' still water may well struggle to regain momentum in a post pandemic world, but Nestle’s move suggests that products offering dietary support for people’s wellness goals could prosper.

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Innovation Collaboration.

With consumer behavior in a state of flux, getting a handle on trends has never been so important. Which is why MMR Group and highly respected trend spotters thefoodpeople have begun working in collaboration. The aim is to make sure that emerging dynamics across food and beverage categories are hitting the desks of innovators faster.

We’re all about stimulating and inspiring our industry and bringing clarity to the future trends horizon. Trendhub supports food and drink businesses to harness the power of trends.

Charles Banks, thefoodpeople

Mat Lintern, CEO of MMR Group said, “This collaboration is a fantastic development for our industry, and we’re excited to amplify the great work of thefoodpeople - boosting our ideation and product development services, with the opportunity to combine both our resources when required.”

So, armed with trendhub, let’s immerse ourselves in water and showcase the trends that depict a category intent on fighting back.

Added function.

With more urgent interest in products supporting physical and emotional wellbeing, trendhub has found Zhou Nutrition’s new line of functional water enhancers. These concentrated liquid formulas are designed to easily mix into any beverage. ‘Simply add two squeezes into water, juice, smoothies.’ They are already listed with Walmart!

Charles says that they allow consumers to target their individual holistic wellness need with a shot in any water-based beverage - even a refillable water bottle.

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It’s likely that a sleep variant will follow, because after 12 months of a new world order, sleep is our biggest health concern according to new data from MMR & Toluna. No wonder then that PEPSI recently released an ‘enhanced water beverage’ called Driftwell in the US.

“Sleep is the new awake” says Charles. “Stress means that people are often not sleeping or not sleeping well. Driftwell sits in an interesting ‘light touch’ relaxation and de-stress space.”

Dealing with stress, evian has just launched evian+, a range of functional waters with added zinc to help cognitive function and magnesium to help reduce tiredness.

Supporting ingredients include ginger, basil, and ginseng.

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Moving from mental to physical support, there’s this water-based shot from Italy containing hyaluronic acid - which keeps skin tissues hydrated and lubricates joints.

SANT’ ANNA is one of a number of beauty waters, where many others champion collagen.

Finally, PEPSI has just added ‘function’ to its arty LIFEWTR brand. “Consumers are prioritizing beverages with functional ingredients that support health and wellness, particularly those aiding normal immune function” said Zach Harris, vice president of the water portfolio at PepsiCo North America, in a statement.

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Natural Fusions.

Despite tough times, canned sparkling flavored water actually grew 40% to £4.9m in the last 12 months (Nielsen MAT to 30.01.21). It's a trend picked up by Highland Spring. “Flavored waters often lack flavor impact, but this new canned proposition has ‘full on flavor’ and natural ingredients” says Charles.


Classic Twists.

It’s not all about new flavor territories. Classics are also being re-invented to deliver elevated familiarity. Take citrus for example, now going well beyond lemon with the likes of calamansi, yuzu, pomelo, and blood orange for a new wave citrus hit.

Charles notes that “calamansi is a tart citrus hybrid native to the Philippines, almost half orange, half lime – familiar but different.”

Uncharted Waters.

Remember coconut water? The noise may have subsided, but we’re noticing a raft of new sources of ‘water’ around the globe.

It might seem like the last thing the world needs right now, but pressed sugarcane juice is a thing, and it’s trending fast!

According to trendhub, it is being enjoyed as a naturally sweet functional health drink in South East Asia, South America and North Africa. It contains electrolytes, potassium, and calcium and in some cases is being marketed as a natural sports drink.

Charles says, “we’ve spotted an influx in added value sugar cane waters in malls, health food shops, juice bars and street food stalls, some of which are positioning it as a naturally sweet health drink for natural energy.”

In a world where there is pent-up demand for new experiences, we think that – crazy though it may sound – sugar cane juice is highly likely to enjoy its time in the sun.

But what will follow it? We’ll be checking to see!

Sugarcane island

Our collaboration.

If you'd like to find out more about how we can help fast track trends within your company, get in touch with Andy

To discover more about our exciting collaboration with thefoodpeople, and other industry leading agencies, head over to our partnerships page

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