The water market is set to grow to 492 billion litres by 2020

12 January 2016

According to the latest figures from Canadean, the water market is anticipated to grow from the current 360 billion litres in 2015 to 492 billion by 2020. Across the sector, PET continues to be the standout material used, accounting for 40% of all water packaging and 65% of the bottled water market in 2015, and predicted to rise to 69% by 2020.

Despite the dominance of PET in the market, there are still growth opportunities for glass, paper and other plastics manufacturers. This is driven by increased consumer demand for convenient and easy-to-use/reuse bottles or containers that fit on the user's person or in a bag, and can be carried wherever they go. Strange as it might seem at first glance, bottled water is not just water, so materials continue to play a part in enhancing flavour, securing the product and best suiting the occasion the drink is being used in - whether for sports or simply to quench thirst. The sector continues to see a number of innovations in packaging that address these consumer needs while providing the best possible product to the market.

The eco trend
Size is no restriction to innovation. With the largest global share of the market and a nearly 50% gap in revenue ahead of its nearest competitor, Nestlé Waters is well known throughout the world for its products. Even if you are not familiar with the company, whatever market you call home will have access to one of the 64 brands that make up its portfolio. With assets in still and sparkling waters, and running across the premium sector, its packaging must meet multiple requirements to appeal to a diverse range of consumers.

In the previous edition of this publication, we spoke with Klaus Hartwig, director of the technical centre for Nestlé Waters. Hartwig explained, at a PET round table, that when it comes to materials for packaging, the rough packaging mix is 40% PET, 23% glass and about 14% cardboard, with the remainder split across hybrid and metal.

"We use mainly PET, but also polyolefines and some TPEs," he said. "This is influenced by the megatrends that impact packaging: health, environment, an aging population, single households and mobility.

"[The health factor] is driving the substitution of sugary drinks with water, which has an impact on size, format and point of sale. Protection of the environment has driven PET to be the most collected and recycled plastic packaging material in the world, alongside many developments for PET from renewable resources. The aging population is driving innovation in formats, handling and opening, but also in the service business - with the home delivery of 5gal bottles of water, for example. In addition, we consistently seek materials with lower environmental footprints, like those from renewable resources. For these materials, we not only want a lower footprint, but also recyclability and compatibility with existing or evolving collection systems."

On the subject of 2015 innovations in water packaging, Hartwig continued, "The leading innovation may be one that is not being perceived by consumers: water overtaking sugary drinks is itself an enormous innovation for the environment. The product has less than a hundredth of the water footprint, and the packaging has a far lower footprint than the heavy packs for soft drinks. Moreover, if consumers drink more water than sugary drinks, their health will improve.

"Regarding specific launches, we are very excited about the launch of the new Perrier 50cl iconic bottle that is to arrive in the US market. The design of the packaging with the bottle, closure and pack all accentuate the brand message while providing the best possible package."

Regenerate recycling
Innovation no longer stops with the development of the package, but continues through the life of the product until it has completed its use. By the end of its life, plastic innovations ensure that the bottle is good for the consumer, planet and company alike, as Hartwig concluded.

"PET material is 100% recyclable, so when the empty bottles are collected, one can use that recycled material for a lot of applications, including reinjection of the material to produce a new bottle. Nestlé Waters is in favour of increasing PET bottle collection and using them in every application - among these, reinjection - and so contributing to the circular economy when appropriate. We therefore promote empty PET bottles as a resource and not a waste in our engagement with our stakeholders, including authorities and consumers.

"We have also launched the R-Generation movement," said Hartwig, "which aims to improve our stakeholders' PET recycling behaviour through education and recycling programmes. For example, our R-Generation initiative in Italy has educated 30,000 children and collected 40t of PET since it was launched in 2013. We also promote the importance of PET recycling through our brands, like Vittel, which donated PET scraps to DODO, a French bedding company, to be recycled for use in a new range of duvets and pillows."

Finding inspiration
In addition to Nestlé and Danone, Coca-Cola has been working on plastic and bioplastic solutions to ensure that where it uses plastic for its bottled water, it is recycled or reused as much as possible. With plastics accounting for 56% of its entire packaging mix, it is a considerable task to ensure that this plastic is used as efficiently as possible so waste and the impact on the planet are reduced. April Crow, responsible for packaging sustainability at The Coca-Cola Company, explained further: "Innovation comes from inspiration, and we are greatly inspired by the very people who drink our beverages. Our consumers expect us to deliver the beverages they know and love in a package that meets their needs, such as convenience and safety - but also a package that is environmentally considerate. PlantBottle packaging has been meeting consumer expectations since 2009.

"The first fully recyclable PET plastic beverage bottle made partially from plants, it looks and functions just like traditional PET plastic but has a lighter footprint on the planet and uses fewer resources. We've reached a significant milestone in our journey by demonstrating a viable technology solution for a bottle made entirely out of plants, and the bottles were shown in Milan at the Expo Milano 2015. There is still more work to be done to reach our ultimate goal: to commercialise a 100% renewable, responsibly sourced bottle that is fully recyclable."

The first fully recyclable PET plastic beverage bottle made partially from plants, [PlantBottle] looks and functions just like traditional PET plastic but has a lighter footprint on the planet and uses fewer resources.

Crow continued with some specific examples of lightweighting and sustainable packaging innovation in various brands. "Based on the success of our I LOHAS bottles in Japan, we extended the lightweight twistable bottle design to several other markets around the globe, supported by consistent 1-2-3 (choose-drink-twist) communication. The design, which employs our PlantBottle material and is the lightest of its kind in Japan, invites consumers to twist and crush the bottle when it's empty, helping to save space in recycling bins, and saving on the money and energy required for transport.

"Coca-Cola Colombia launched Brisa bottled water in a twistable ecoflex package; the 600ml bottle uses 23% less PET plastic. Following the lead of I LOHAS in Japan, Coca-Cola Colombia promoted its new package with an advertising campaign encouraging consumers to 'drink, twist, re-cap and recycle'. In a similar campaign, Coca-Cola Costa Rica launched its Alpina bottled water in an ecoflex bottle... and Coca-Cola Thailand relaunched its Namthip bottled water with a new brand identity and an 'ecocrush' bottle that uses 35% less PET plastic."

Sleek sustainability
Considering the size of the market, it is little wonder that quite so much attention is being paid to plastic bottles: they are convenient, sturdy, can be lightweight and do not add high costs to transport. This is one of the reasons it is almost exclusively the material used for water packaging at Hangzhou Wahaha Group, the world's second largest water company. With more than 20 brands, currently mainly sold in China - but beginning to sell worldwide - it continues to use plastic as the preferred packaging material.
George Cheng, research and development manager for the company, commented: "Water is a healthy and pure product that cleans us. We have sparkling and non-sparkling brands as well as specialised water (oxygen-rich, mineral-enhanced and others) to provide further quality to consumers.

PET allows us to match the purity and vitality of the product inside via transparent packaging so the consumer can see the quality and purity of our water for themselves.

Our research shows that consumers want to see the product. If we close off the packaging, or put it in a non-see-through material like metal or paper, the consumer does not trust the product inside. PET allows us to match the purity and vitality of the product inside via transparent packaging so the consumer can see the quality and purity of our water for themselves. As many people bulk-buy their water, we also need a package that can hold heavier weights and transport easily without breaking."

One company that has taken a different tactic in the bottled water market is New York start-up JUST Beverages, which has chosen to move away from the typical plastic bottle and is the first US company to use a paper-based 'carton bottle'. The package comprises a square carton body made from 53% paper, a bottle top constructed of high-density polyethylene and an HDPE cap.
JUST Beverages emphasises the environmental benefits of its bottle: it is made primarily from a renewable resource that is sourced from sustainably managed forests, it is 100% recyclable, and it reduces CO2 emissions by 52% versus a standard-size, middleweight PET bottle. The body of the package is a six-layer lamination made of paper, thin layers of low-density polyethylene, and a layer of aluminum, which acts as a barrier to light and air. The HDPE screw cap is a one-step open-style closure, whereby the consumer breaks the safety seal with a turn of the cap.

"With a focus on environmental and social stewardship, JUST Water offers consumers a different type of packaged water that feels as good as it tastes," says Grace Jeon, CEO of JUST Beverages. "The carton delivers a sleek, sustainable package that not only stands out on the shelf in a very crowded market, but is also compelling to our consumers and allows us to communicate our message and benefits clearly."


The launch of the new Perrier 50cl bottle comes as part of the brand’s limited-edition Inspired by Street Art collection: this product features the artwork of French artist L’Atlas.

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