Regina Maiseviciute
Regina is a Global Food & Drink Analyst. As part of the analyst team she provides insights on product innovation, trends and packaging and market developments globally.

With consumers increasingly turning to bottled water as an alternative to sweetened soft drinks in a bid to follow healthier lifestyles, there’s an opportunity for new bottled water launches that resonate with consumers looking for added-value propositions. While ‘natural’ is the most important bottled water attribute among Americans, they are also seeking a range of other characteristics, including added vitamins, electrolytes, antioxidants and/or flavour.

Despite strong interest in functional and/or added-value varieties, bottled water brands have placed naturalness at the forefront of their development strategies as there remains robust consumer demand for natural products and simpler ingredient lists. According to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), more new bottled water launches in the US included an ‘all natural’ claim than a ‘no additives/preservatives’ claim in the last three years.

Core Hydration Perfectly Balanced Water is ultra purified with the body’s natural pH balance of 7.4 and contains electrolytes and minerals.

Diamond Creek 9.5 PH Alkaline Ionized Spring Water is bottled at the source in the Appalachian region using micro-filtration, ionization, UV and electrolytes.

The raw water craze

As natural positioning becomes widespread, manufacturers are looking for new ways to distinguish themselves from the competition. Using ‘raw’ ingredients in food and drink products can offer brands a more authentic and distinctive positioning in comparison to simply using natural claims. Consumers who express their interest in simpler formulations are likely to be attracted to raw product propositions.

Water is one of the latest products to join the raw eating craze in the US, which is based on the understanding that the extreme heat of conventional cooking may destroy much of food’s beneficial nutrients. As bottled water in general is not heated, water is using the ‘raw’ term to appear trendy. Interest in raw water comes from the effort to avoid bottled water, as well as tap water, and the fluoride that is commonly added to it. Raw water is known by many names: untreated, live, unprocessed or unsterilised, and is now being bottled and sold at retail.

However, the consumption of raw water is putting consumers at risk for a number of diseases and infections caused by bacteria such as E.coli, cholera, hepatitis A and giardia. Despite these dangers, some consumers are adamant about the health benefits of raw water, claiming it is more hydrating than bottled or tap water. Raw water companies are also claiming that raw water contains minerals and probiotics that are destroyed by sterilisation in other filtered and bottled spring waters, suggesting it is healthier than any other kind of treated water.

Is raw water here to stay?

Even though it is likely that raw water will appeal to only a small number of consumers, it is evident how important transparent communication regarding the functional benefits and added value aspects of bottled water is. As Mintel’s 2018 Food & Drink Trend ‘Full Disclosure’ points out, consumers increasingly require complete and total transparency from food and drink companies.

Raw water is unlikely to become the next big thing; however, treated bottled water brands cannot take their consumer base for granted. In order to maintain consumer interest in the functional benefits of bottled water, brands need to focus on using clear and comprehensive claims and on-pack messages. When using less common ingredients, advertising campaigns of such products may use elements of education in order to capture consumer attention and provide them with transparent information.