The consulting firm Nielsen estimates that last year this segment grew by 2.5%, which makes it a solid business that has fought the crisis and the continuous recommendations of consumer associations on the little or no utility of paying for it when the tap is infinitely cheaper and does not generate packaging.
According to the European Bottled Waters Association (EFBW), production in Spain reaches 5,331 million liters, of which 4,913 million, 92%, are natural minerals, and the rest are considered "spring" (whose natural characteristics may fluctuate) or drinking water prepared without any particular quality.
In the data handled by the specialized consulting firm IRI Worldwide, private labels account for 40% of the sales volume in supermarkets and hypermarkets (1,367 million liters) but only 27% of the value (207 million euros).
So that the water preferred by consumers is that which is presented under a brand, and there six multinationals monopolize the majority of the cake: in this order, Font Vella and Lanjarón (Danone), Bezoya (Grupo Leche Pascual), Aquarel (Nestlé), Solan de Cabras (Mahou-San Miguel), Font Natura and Fuente Primavera (from the Italian group San Benedetto) and Aquabona (Coca-Cola).
With 441 employees, the leading French group in this segment in Spain has sold water worth 160 million euros in the last year (data between February 2014 and 2015).
Its sales, 21% of the entire market, are comparable to those of the Pascual and Nestlé groups together. The company, which joined its two water brands in 2006, has the largest bottling plant in the country in Sant Hilari Sacalm (Girona), close to the Montseny natural park and another three in Sigüenza (Guadalajara); Amer (Girona) specialist in carbonated waters and, at 700 meters of altitude, that of the town of Lanjarón in Granada's Alpujarra, where Lanjarón and Fonteforte, one of its waters with added carbonic gas, are bottled. The second in the classification by brands, the Pascual group, billed in bottled water 90 million in 2014 after scratching a growth of 2%.
They believe that the sector will grow in 2015 "in a context of lower prices and greater promotions."
Joán Riera, director of the Food area at KantarWorldpanel, recalls that the market “suffered a significant drop in consumption when the crisis began, but for three years it has stabilized. It is a consumption linked to the quality of the tap water. In Catalonia and the Mediterranean arc it is intensive, while in places like Madrid, where the water is very good, the average is only one liter a week ”.
In the sparkling water segment, Vichy Catalán reigns, with sales of 17 million, even above private label waters, which distribute products worth nine million. They are followed by Fonter (Danone) and San Pellegrino (Nestlé).
According to Jaime Leucona, from Nielsen, mineral water is a category that has endured the years of crisis very well.
“2014 has not been an exception, the year ended with growth of 2.8% in volume and 2.5% in value. As for 2015, we can anticipate that it will continue to be a good year, at the moment it is growing above 3% in both volume and value ”.
With the economic depression, the advances in sales within this market have been sustained in products at a very low price and in jug-type containers, greater than five liters.
40% of the liters sold in hypermarkets and supermarkets already correspond to this type of format. “However, this category also presents opportunities for value-added products, something for which consumers are willing to pay more. Functional waters are at the moment a relatively small market niche but with immense potential ”, adds Leucona.
Specifically, they grew more than 40% in 2014 and have a similar rate in 2015. The example is in Levite, by Danone, a drink based on mineral water and fruit juice that in the last year has skyrocketed its sales by 46 % up to 10.5 million.
There are numerous signs that companies want to convince consumers with more attractive packaging formats that generate a more emotional connection. “Along these lines, in recent years, our company has introduced packaging of different sizes to improve the consumer experience, adapting the formats to different lifestyles, moments of consumption and to different audiences, such as children, athletes or moms ”, assures the information that Danone offers.
The OCU, however, recalls that some manufacturers do not hesitate to use advertising claims that are often obvious or pure fantasy such as "light water", "soft and refreshing", "water to maintain our health or vitality".
Consumer organizations believe that the tap is the best option to quench thirst, and when its hardness makes it difficult to digest, they remember that the important thing when choosing a product is the properties of the spring. And the same brand can have several sources or several brands can exploit the same. Coca-Cola, for example, has four production mines, which it identifies on its Aquabona bottles.
The per capita consumption data of bottled water in Europe show enormous differences according to the cultural habits of each country, something that has not so much to do with their ability to provide citizens with drinking water in the sanitation network.
In Spain it stands at 112 liters per inhabitant per year, similar to the consumption of the French, while in Germany it is 167 liters, most of which is sparkling water, and in Italy 175 liters.
The United Kingdom, with 27 liters per capita, is, together with the Netherlands, with 20, of the countries that consume the least bottled water. Portugal, on the other hand, exceeds the Spanish average with 122 liters.
"Consumption is equivalent to the water that evaporates in a reservoir with a surface area of 2 to 3.5 square kilometers," says the Spanish Association of Packaged Waters, which groups together the main companies.
Faith of errors: The brands Font Natura and Fuente Primavera belong to the Italian group San Benedetto and not to the Schweppes group, as reported by mistake in this article.
OMAL Observatory of Multinationals in Latin America