Bottled Water Holds Rank As Top U.S. Beverage For Third Consecutive Year, Growth Streak Continues But Slows

Posted On: 6/10/2019

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/Uploads/Public/Articles/201905/World-Tetris-Day (2).jpgNEW YORK CITY -- After having topped carbonated soft drinks to become the largest beverage category by volume in the United States two years earlier, bottled water growth enlarged further in 2018, but at a slower rate than in 2017.

According to a new report from New York City’s Beverage Marketing Corp., total bottled water volume grew from 13.2 billion gallons in 2017 to 13.8 billion gallons in 2018, an increase of almost 5%, compared to more than 6% in 2017.

Except for two relatively small declines in 2008 and 2009 -- when most beverage categories contracted -- bottled water volume grew every year from 1977 to 2018. This period included 17 double-digit annual volume growth spurts. Since resuming growth in 2010, bottled water volume has consistently enlarged at solid single-digit percentage rates, BMC reported.

As a result, per capita consumption exceeded 42 gallons in 2018, while average intake of carbonated soft drinks slipped to around 37 gallons. At the turn of the century, per capita soft drink consumption regularly exceeded 50 gallons, and BMC expects bottled water to reach that level by the middle of the next decade.

The differing developments of the two largest beverage types are significant. "Bottled water's ascent occurred in tandem with, and was largely responsible for, changes in consumer preferences for healthier forms of rehydration and refreshment," explained BMC chairman and chief executive Michael C. Bellas. "Portable and affordable bottled water aligned perfectly with numerous usage occasions at all times of day. Bottled water emerged as the beverage of choice both for people reducing calories or avoiding artificial sweeteners and for anyone looking for an all-natural refreshment beverage.”

Single-serving sizes became the most popular bottled water option, accounting for the majority of the category's volume. In 2018, the single-serve segment enlarged more than 5% to almost 9.7 billion gallons. Yet all other segments, including larger, multi–serving bottles as well as home and office delivery, sparkling water and imports, also registered growth in 2018, according to BMC. Domestic sparking water advanced at a double-digit rate, and imports outperformed the overall market, though both still claimed comparatively small shares of volume.

Looking forward, BMC expects bottled water to lengthen its already considerable record of growth and to put still more distance between itself and the carbonatedsoft drink beverage category it surpassed to become the biggest.

New York City-based Beverage Marketing Corp. is the leading research, consulting and financial services firm dedicated to the global beverage industry.