Growing bottled water market still needs one thing

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 15th July 2016

Water bottle coding_Matthews AFN Jul16Bottled water’s popularity continues to grow globally, particularly in Asia. Last year, China overtook the USA as the world’s No.1 consumer of bottled water, while India sits at 10.

As with many foods and beverages, the drawcard is product purity. This year’s China-Australia trade conference heard of an increasing Chinese desire for Australian products, and while one of those was dairy, another stand-out was bottled water. But with all the interesting innovations discussed, there’s still one basic that needs to be covered.

According to Zenith International, the Asian share of the bottled water market was 41% in 2015, up from 35% in 2011. That figure highlights the double-digit growth of the past five years, yet consumption per person (at this stage) is relatively low. This is the opposite to the Western European and North American markets, which have high per-capita consumption, yet much lower growth.

According to Zenith International, the Asian share of the bottled water market was 41% in 2015, up from 35% in 2011. That figure highlights the double-digit growth of the past five years, yet consumption per person (at this stage) is relatively low. This is the opposite to the Western European and North American markets, which have high per-capita consumption, yet much lower growth.

The China-Australia Agribusiness Trade and Investment conference, held in Australia earlier this year, heard Bank of China executive vice-president Gao Yingxin signpost an increasing desire for Australian products — particularly bottled water, although dairy, beef and wine were also very popular.

More than 600 people (including from 120 Chinese businesses) attended the Sydney trade conference, which was hosted by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Bank of China. Among them was Henry Heng, CEO of Australian bottled water company Refresh Group, based in Western Australia, in Perth.

Mr Heng told Australia’s ABC radio that many Chinese people drank bottled water, but the growing middle class was increasingly leaning towards imported products and didn’t “mind paying a bit more” for them. He said the although it was a niche market, there was a “fair bit” of imported bottled water in China.


Established in 1997, Refresh is Australia’s largest producer of distilled drinking water under its brand “Refresh Pure Water”. However the company also produces a “super-oxygenated” water, called “Oxyfresh”, which has Himalayan crystal salt and up to 700% more oxygen than normal water. The manufacturer also produces other brands to fit different markets.

Such innovation is key to the growing bottled water market — as evidenced by another Australian producer, AquaBotanical, which is bottled water made from rejected carrots. Former wine industry chemist Dr Bruce Kambouris, based in Mildura (in north-west Victoria), developed the product, which last year was a finalist in the Global Bottled Water Awards and won the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology’s innovation award.

Institute CEO Georgie Aley said AquaBotanical was different because it was a by-product of another food application. The innovative product is already being served in high-profile Sydney restaurant Gastro Park, where it has replaced established international brands.

Doing the basics

No matter how innovative the product, it won’t go anywhere if it doesn’t meet the basics in coding and labelling.

There are five main codes for beverage and food processors to be aware of:

  1. Date codes: either use-by (the day and/or month by which the product must be consumed) or best-before (indicates when the product will begin to degrade from its optimal quality)
  2. Batch codes: all packages with the same batch number are considered to be the same in all respects (raw ingredients from the same supplier, manufacture time, and so on); this is critical for traceability
  3. Identification codes: can be in the form of barcodes or alphanumeric codes, and are also used to trace a product through the supply chain; they can be printed on labels that are affixed to the product, or printed or engraved directly onto it
  4. Barcodes: are used to identify food and beverages at product level, or at logistic levels on cartons or pallets
  5. QR codes and promotional codes: QR codes are two-dimensional, computer-generated images that can be scanned by smartphones or tablets to generate an action; the biggest benefit is the ability provide extra information to consumers without using up valuable packaging space

As well as offering product information, codes are also important for product traceability.

Product traceability is vital throughout the supply chain — particularly with stringent product safety guidelines. But it’s also important to create a supply chain that does this cost effectively.

To be able to efficiently track and trace a product, it needs to be coded correctly. An integrated software solution, such as iDSNet, automates product coding, ensuring the right code is always applied — be it date code, batch code, barcode or whichever other type of code — and because it’s automated, the integration software enables faster product change-overs.

Having the correct code applied — without the need for rework — is critical for lean manufacturing processes, which are essential to creating and maintaining a cost-effective supply chain.

Specifically designed technology

There are several technologies that can be used in food and beverage coding and labelling.

  • Small Character Continuous Inkjet Coders (CIJ): these highly versatile, precise coders are ideal for high-speed lines and irregular products. They are well suited to coding variable information (such as: date codes, batch numbers, promotional codes, serialisation codes, product-identification codes, logo graphics and text.
  • Lasers: are an extremely fast, cost-effective way to mark permanent codes onto food and beverage products. They can apply human-readable text (such as date and batch codes), as well as barcodes and graphics. Lasers can code onto glass, plastics (such as PET, polystyrene and polypropylene), metal and cardboard, and are often used in anti-counterfeiting and brand protection. They are suited where presentation is very important (g. wine), and on high-speed lines. (Lasers can also code onto cartons and other secondary packaging.)
  • Inline labelling: suits a variety of applications and needs, including top, side or under labelling; wrap labelling; wrap labelling with seam orientation; front and back; a combination of front & back and wrap; wrap labels oriented to flip marks on different types of bottles; and wrap labelling or partially wrap labelling cones. Inline labellers are also perfect for promotional labelling.
  • Label Printer Applicators (LPA): print onto pressure-sensitive labels then automatically apply those labels to a product, using a pneumatic applicator. (LPA’s differ from Label Applicators (LA’s), which apply pre-printed pressure-sensitive labels.). Labels can be thermal direct (which are thermal sensitive) or thermal transfer labels (which use ribbons to transfer ink onto the labels). LPA’s are used for applying human-readable and barcode information to many different products, generally cartons or pallets. Because LPAs have excellent print quality, the barcode labels are fully compliant with all GS1 and retailer quality standards. LPAs are easy to-use, with integrated software allowing them to be programed without a PC on the production line (g. logic programming), such as dates.

Packaging innovation is excellent for creating shelf appeal, but it must also meet all coding requirements. The right coding technology can help meet all compliance regulations, without compromising on the product look. For instance, laser coding can nonintrusive, and help with overall shelf appeal.

Need help on mitigating risk and continuing to build consumer trust in your brand? Speak to our experts.


 Mark Dingley is General Manager of Matthews Australasia and Chairman of the Australian Packaging and Processing Machinery Association (APPMA). With 20+ years of experience in the product identification industry and the wealth of knowledge gained from working closely with manufacturers and industry associations, Mark actively contributes to industry forums, magazines and the Matthews blog.