Asia boosts global bottled water market

Posted by Isobel Drake on 15th January 2010

A global recession and concerns about the environmental impact of bottled water were expected to drag the previously high flying industry down last year but, thanks to the developing Asian market, the sector was able to hold its own.

Research from Canadean, Global Bottled Water Report, suggests that final year figures for 2009 may see the worldwide market for bottled water increase by around 2%. Although this does represent a slowdown, it is encouraging for the industry that the category can maintain growth in even the most testing of trading environments.

The market would have fared significantly better if one discounts North America, which in 2008 dropped from double digit growth the year before into decline. In North America a combination of consumers switching to more economical filtered tap water and concerns over the environmental impact of bottled water have triggered the downturn in sales. In the US some government offices are banning packaged water from government offices and events while various other states are attempting to add bottled water taxes. Certain government offices and a couple of small towns have done likewise in Australia.

North America accounts for 18% of global sales and, without its decline, the global water market likely increased by a healthier 4%.

The biggest market for waters, West Europe, which accounts for nearly 30% of world volumes, also likely had negative 2009 results. Spain and France, two of the heavyweight markets, are responsible for much of these losses.

Asia was once again the main global driver in 2009 and, within Asia, it will be China that boosts the regional and indeed the global performance. Canadean’s Quarterly Beverage Tracker suggests that the Chinese water category jumped by 18% in quarter 3 last year and is set for another big increase in volumes. The market has been aided by hot weather in certain important parts of China and intense price competition which has kept prices low. An improving economy is very significant and it is perhaps no surprise that the Chinese quarterly GDP growth rate was 8.9% year on year, which was 1.0% higher than Q2-09. There remains plenty of slack in the Asian market with per capita two and half times less than the global average.

With the help of Asia, the bottled water category seems to have ridden out the worst of the global recession, but Canadean consultants do not expect the pre-recession growth rates to return. Instead they expect the water market to settle back down to a growth rate of 5% after 2009, a marked slowdown on the 7% seen in 2007 or the 9.5% jump in 2006. But, in contrast to last year, every region is expected to post growth in 2010.