By UTalkMarketing Editor, Clark Turner.
Bottled water is big business. More than simply being the means to an end and quenching people’s thirst it’s become a lifestyle statement.
Carrying a bottle of water says “I am calorie aware and diet conscious”, it says “I am probably go the gym and am interested in fitness.”
Britons splashed out £1.68bn on 2.275bn litres of bottled water in 2006, according to Which? but there are signs that consumers’ thirst for bottled is drying up as they turn to the tap instead. According to one market research agency, sales of bottled water dropped by 9% in 2007.
One of the principle reasons is a growing concern for the environment. Some 83% of the water consumers buy in the UK comes in plastic bottles. Although these bottles can be recycled, most of them go to landfill where they can take up to 450 years to decompose.
Which? scarily estimates the number of plastic water bottles sent to UK landfill sites each year would fill Wembley stadium twice over.
The recession has also impacted to on consumer choices. At 0.22p a litre, tap water is 141 times cheaper than the bestselling mineral water, Evian, which, costs from 31p a litre in supermarkets
Despite the French bottled water leading the market, locally sourced springs are fighting back. Buxton claims to be one of the purest natural mineral waters in the world and has been bottled intermittently for local sales since the mid-19th century.
Commercial bottling began in 1980 and the Buxton brand was acquired by Nestle Waters in 1992. Today it is the fastest growing bottled water brand in the UK.
“The main challenge of the bottled water category generally is a lack of knowledge about ‘healthy hydration’,” explained Head of Marketing for Nestle Waters UK, Rebecca White (pictured).
“We operate as part of the wider Nestle portfolio and while drinking bottled water is part of the culture in France and Italy, it’s not so the case in the UK.”
According to experts, for ‘healthy hydration’ consumers need to have an intake of 1.2-1.5 litres of fluid a day for an optimum level of hydration. These fluids don’t need to be purley water, but in White’s opinion water is best.
She added, “The second challenge we face is that bottled water is seen as a seasonal product here in the UK with the biggest uptake in the summer. We want healthy hydration to be a priority for people all year round.”
“We want to make sure the consumers see it less as a fashion statement, but as part of their everyday routine, picking up bottled water like they might do bread or milk. It needs to be something that’s available at all times of the day”
She added, ”We want to get over the message that it’s a good lifestyle fit – that it’s pure and natural, as well as being a good option for children.”
One of Buxton’s biggest current projects is rolling out a number of recycling stations as part of its ‘Recycling on the Go’ drive. Four branded bins have been sited in the brand’s home town with plans to roll the project out with the installation of 18 more.
The move sits as part of the brand’s wider CSR strategy which aims to address the general issues raised by environmentally driven critics of bottled water.
There are three main pillars to Nestle Waters’ green policy: quality and compliance; sustainability; and wider CSR. These then fall into the four sectors of: water usage, transportation, energy and reducing packaging.
First steps along this path involved cutting the plastic used in 50cl still bottles by 20% - it is now one of the lightest 50cl still bottles available in the UK. Despite Buxton’s bottle packaging now being 100% recyclable it’s estimated that the recycling rate for plastic bottles across the UK is just 35%.
“We like to focus on the long term at Nestle Waters looking at a ‘shared value position’ programme.” explained White. “Consumers find the bottles useful, but there’s an issue once they are empty.
“We decided to start at home by addressing this issue amongst the Buxton community. By testing ‘Recycling on the Go’ we hope to learn from it, helping with our credibility and knowledge.”
She continued, “We need to make sure everything we do is of benefit to the community and helps us to become closer to them. It’s part of along term commitment giving something back.
“With their help we will be closer of achieving our goal of making the Peak District plastic free though people disposing of their bottles responsibly.”
Admittedly there’s a long way to go but White is hopeful that by raising awareness of the issues of recycling, there will be real results.
As a means to communicate that message, the brand has increasingly been looking at the digital space by refreshing the websites for Buxton and sister Nestle Water brand, Pure Life. But White admits it’s something that holds potential, way and beyond what the brand has achieved so far.
“We see digital as something that needs to be explored by FMCG brands. What we have realised is that we really need to know our brand well before entering into a dialogue with consumers and use the website as more than a portal simply to win prizes,” she said.
“It’s about relationship marketing and needs to be seen as part of a 360-degree campaign with both shelf and store activity being relevant to what we are doing online. Yes, there’s an opportunity to be engaging with consumers on a deeper level, but we have to invest in and approach the space properly.”
Having worked in marketing for 15 years, is there any advice she would like to pass on to her peers?
“Firstly, marketers need to have two ears and one mouth. They need to listen to their consumers and learn from them,” she said.
“They also need to be clear about the business objectives of the brand and be asking why not?’ and ‘what if?’
“If they are not questioning then they need to be asking themselves if they should be working in marketing. It’s the marketers’ duty to keep the passion of the business alive.”
Check out 12ahead, our brand new platform
covering the latest in cutting-edge digital marketing and creative technology from around the globe.
12ahead identifies emerging trends and helps
you to understand how they can apply to modern-day companies.
We believe 12ahead can put you and your
business 12 months ahead of the competition. Sign up for a free trial today.