We all know water is good for us, and for drinks brands it looks like flavoured water is good for business too. The segment has held strong in recent years, with its products and sales influenced and potentially bolstered by a range of factors.
Flavoured water volume and value sales have been sustained even in the face of market and consumer trend pressures. Flavoured still water saw value sales growth of 14.4% in 2021/22, while flavoured sparkling water enjoyed 21.7% growth*. Each saw modest growth or maintenance of volume sales.
However, more recent figures suggest usage of bottled water is on the rise. Regular (more than once a week) use of flavoured still water was up by 12.9% in the first quarter of 2023 (from 31% to 35%)*.
Fortified water is the fastest growing segment within the category, seeing 32.1% and 27.3% value and volume sales growth, respectively, in 2021/22*.
Wider consumer trends now offer both opportunities and obstacles for flavoured water brands to consider. Health-conscious drinkers tend to choose bottled water over other soft drinks, and new fortified water offerings also align with wellness trends. But those seeking out cost-savings tend to turn to tap water, and consumers concerned with sustainability are mindful of bottled water’s environmental impact.
Flavour ideas & inspiration
Citrus, stoned fruit and berry flavours are the typical go-tos for flavoured waters. Mixes like lemon and lime, peach and apricot, or apple and raspberry offer familiar, instantly recognisable flavours. Tropical and botanical flavours like mango, passionfruit or elderflower are also becoming more mainstream, both as complementary flavours to traditional ingredients, or as standalone flavours.
Berry combinations like Strawberry & Elderflower will appeal to those interested in homegrown ingredients, while Blackberry & Mint or Blueberry & Ginger will suit consumers seeking health-adjacent recipes. For citrus mixes, Lemon, Lime & Mint could offer a refreshing bite to a classic blend, while Orange & Mango can offer a tropical twist. Tropical or international flavours like Mango, Passionfruit or Pomegranate as lead flavours are also increasingly popular.
There is also potential to stray from traditional sweet and fruit-led flavours. Around a quarter of consumers (26%) expressed interest in flavoured water with non-sweet flavours, such as herbals of florals*. Floral notes could be added to classic berry flavours, such as raspberry with Rose or Cherry Blossom, to create premium options. Or herbal additions such as lemon and lime with Thyme, or peach with Basil, could offer savoury flavours with nods to herbal health trends.
Opportunities for flavoured water
As above, fortified water is the fastest growing segment within the flavoured water category. These creations can build on the increased understanding around the importance of hydration and appeal to the 45% of bottled water users interested in added supplements in water* by offering added extras for functionality. For example, Lucozade and Wow Hydrate have created a hydration-boosting flavoured water with added vitamins and electrolytes.
Flavoured waters could also be positioned as appealing and healthier alternatives for mixers in cocktails, offering all the flavour but lower sugar or calorie counts to traditional tonics or soft drinks.
There is opportunity for flavoured water to build on the experience and flavour it offers through enhanced aromas too. Two-fifths of drinks (39%) agree that flavoured waters with stronger aromas would be more appealing*.
Improving and communicating how aromas enhance taste and drinking experience will improve the appeal and positioning of these drinks. This could be through highlighting how tropical flavours can transport drinkers to holiday memories, or how floral or botanical ingredients can support mindful moments, adding a luxury or premium feel to drinks. These could also help flavoured waters to gain market share from fizzy soft drinks. Heightened aromas in flavoured waters could also support sugar reduction in drinks by increasing the perception of sweetness, suiting the HFSS regulations.
Innovations & New launches
Flavoured water brands have sought to maintain interest and sales by asking for customer feedback or adapting their offerings. Classic flavours have remained key to new launches, though.
Category leaders Volvic and challenger brand Dash each included consumers in their decision-making for new product development, inviting customers to contribute their ideas and feedback. Votes via social media polls demonstrated the enduring popularity of classic flavours, leading to a new zesty Lime for Dash and a Kiwi & Lime for Volvic.
Start-up brand FYX has developed a unique sugar-free fortified water to suit wellness and beauty trends. Containing premium marine hydrolysed collagen peptides, these are said to be the UK’s first ready-to-drink collagen waters, with two versions using berry or citrus flavours.
At Simpsons we have worked on a number of projects that have built on the popularity of berry flavours. New launches within this category include M&S’s Watermelon & Strawberry and Raspberry flavoured sparkling waters, and Perfectly Clear’s Blueberry & Apple and Cherry & Berry flavoured still waters. Newcomers Aqua Carpatica have established themselves by adding complementary botanicals to traditional flavours, including Lime & Mint and Strawberry & Elderflower sparkling waters.
Importance of sustainability
Sustainability is a key consideration in the consumption of a wide range of food and drinks items, but particularly so for bottled waters.
Most consumers (60%) see plastic bottles as the least environmentally friendly drinks packaging, and nearly half (48%) feel using reusable bottles makes you look good**.
Responding to this, flavoured water brands have introduced more refill or larger format options, alongside using recycled or recyclable content in packaging.
Britvic launched its digital Flavour Tap in 2022. This allows workplaces, venues, and retailers to dispense four different flavoured waters to workers and shoppers without the usual plastic waste. Evian used a similar approach in 2023. Though not consumer-facing, its pilot at Wimbledon tennis tournament, which allowed players to refill reusable bottles from Evian dispensers on court, offered PR opportunities.
Radnor Hills expanded its best-selling flavoured water into multipacks of 1.5ltr bottles in early 2023, appealing to shoppers reducing their spending by buying in bulk.
As the cost-of-living crisis restricts household spending, sustainability has slipped to second place as a concern for shoppers though, behind prioritising saving money. And shoppers are expected to change their priorities and habits again when the Deposit Return Scheme comes in across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, expected in 2025. These factors offer some breathing space for flavoured water brands to explore refillable and larger formats suited to their offerings and target market.
Let’s work together
Simpsons are experts in the development of compounds for flavoured water. Chat to our team for more ideas and expertise on how to capitalise on these flavoured water trends.