IBWA Survey Finds Consumers Want Bottled Water To Be Available Wherever Drinks Are Sold

Posted On: 1/13/2020

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ALEXANDRIA, VA --- More than 9 in 10 Americans (91%) say bottled water should be available wherever other drinks are sold, according to a new national survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults aged 18 and older conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA).

And if plain bottled water is not available, 74% of people who identify bottled water as among their most preferred beverages said they would choose another packaged drink: soda (19%), coffee (9%), sparkling bottled water (7%), tea (7%), juice/fruit drinks (7%), sports drink (6%), flavored or sweetened sparkling or still bottled water (5 %), functional water (5%), bottled tea (5%), energy drink (3%), and any other packaged drink (1%).

Among the remaining 26%, 1% said they would stay thirsty, half (12%) would drink filtered tap water, 7% would drink from a public water fountain, while 5% would drink unfiltered tap water.

Ninety-four percent of Americans said they have purchased bottled water, which aligns with news that bottled water continues to be America's favorite drink, outselling soda (by volume) for the fourth year in a row in 2019, according to New York City-based Beverage Marketing Corp. (BMC).

Much of bottled water's rise in popularity stems from people switching from caloric drinks to water. In fact, since 2006, 69% of the growth in bottled water consumption has come from people switching from carbonated soft drinks and fruit juice to water, data from the BMC shows.

"People are choosing beverages with fewer calories, so they are shifting away from less healthy packaged drinks and are choosing the healthiest option -- bottled water," said IBWA vice-president of communications Jill Culora. "People who make this switch are also helping the environment because not only are bottled water containers 100% recyclable (including the cap) but they also contain much less plastic than soda and other packaged beverages."

Bottled water containers, on average, use 59% less PET plastic than other packaged beverages (9.89 grams vs. 23.9 grams for 16.9-ounce containers). Soft drinks and other sugary beverages need thicker plastic containers due to their carbonation and/or bottling processes, according to IBWA.

"We are hearing from PET plastic recyclers that because of the consumption shift from soda to bottled water, their facilities need to recycle twice as many of the lighter weight water bottles to get the same amount of plastic resin they would have from soda bottles," Culora said.

According to the survey, 86% of Americans said they drink bottled water while they travel, 83% of employed Americans drink it at work, and 76% of all Americans drink it at home, while 72% drink bottled water when shopping and on the go, 70% drink it at social events where other drinks are served, 68% at sports and entertainment venues, and 66% consume bottled water at the gym or when exercising.

Bottled water drinkers find many factors important when choosing a beverage, but taste (97%), quality (97%), and safety (91%) are at the top of their list. Bottled water drinkers also say that features like ready to enjoy (81%), convenient packaging when on the go (82%), and re-sealable containers (82%) are important to them when choosing a beverage. Sixty-five percent of bottled water drinkers say low calories are important when choosing a beverage, while 72% say the lack of artificial sweeteners is important.

Of the bottled water drinkers who have a packaging preference (86%), nearly 8 out of 10 (79%) prefer it packaged in plastic bottles. Fifteen percent said glass, 4% said metal cans, and 2% said paper cartons or box.

When it comes to environmental concerns, 91% of Americans agreed that it's important to recycle all recyclable consumer packaging, with 75% agreeing that plastic is a valuable resource because it can be recycled over and over again, and 89% agreeing that making new products from recycled material is better for the environment than using virgin (never before used) material. Nearly 7 out of 10 (69%) said consumers are primarily responsible for recycling water bottles, compared to companies (61%), government (31%) and a combination of all three (20%).

While most people drink both tap and bottled water (71%), those who drink only/mostly bottled water is up 2% from last year (39%, compared to 37% in 2018).

Not surprisingly, the survey showed bottled water (still and/or sparkling, unflavored and/or flavored and functional) is among their most preferred non-alcoholic beverages at 67% compared to coffee at 65% and soft drinks (regular and/or diet) at 57%, a 2% decrease from last year.

IBWA pointed out that bottled water containers are 100% recyclable -- even the caps. And bottled water is the most recognized and recycled PET plastic container in curbside recycling systems. In fact, bottled water containers make up approximately 55% (by count) of all PET plastic collected in curbside systems throughout the United States. Soda bottles make up only 14.7% of the PET plastic collected in curbside programs, according to the National Association for PET Container Resources' (NAPCOR) 2018 Postconsumer PET Bottle Bale Composition Analysis.

When asked about their general opinion of bottled water as a beverage choice, 84% of Americans had a "very positive" or "somewhat positive" opinion of bottled water. Only 16% of Americans have a "somewhat" or "very" negative opinion of bottled water as a beverage choice.

Eighty-six percent of Americans say they should drink more water (up 4% from last year), and 89% believe that bottled water is a healthy and convenient beverage.