Tuesday 18 June 2024
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US consumers’ thirst for bottled water is stronger than ever

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ALEXANDRIA, VA, USA – Almost 9 in 10 Americans (88 percent) say they have a positive opinion of bottled water as a beverage choice, 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).

More than 4 in 5 Americans (83 percent) say water (any type, from any source) is among their most preferred beverage, and bottled water (still and/or sparkling, unflavored and/or flavored) is among their most preferred non-alcoholic beverages, at 65 percent compared to coffee at 63 percent and soft drinks (regular and/or diet) at 58 percent.

Just over 9 in 10 Americans (91 percent) say bottled water should be available wherever other drinks are sold (unchanged from 2019 survey). Of the bottled water drinkers who have a packaging preference (83 percent), more than 7 out of 10 (73 percent) prefer bottled water packaged in plastic bottles (16 percent said glass, 6 percent said metal cans, and 4 percent said paper cartons or box).

If plain bottled water is not available, 70 percent of those who identify bottled water as among their most preferred beverages said they would choose another packaged drink: soda (22 percent), sparkling or sweetened or flavored bottled water (10 percent), sports drink (8 percent), tea (7 percent), coffee (6 percent), juice/fruit drinks (5 percent), functional water (5 percent), bottled tea (4 percent), energy drink (3 percent).

Among the remaining 30 percent, a third (10 percent) would drink from a watercooler, either using a refillable cup (5 percent) or disposable cup (5 percent). Ten percent would drink filtered tap water, 6 percent would drink unfiltered tap water, while 4 percent would drink from a public water fountain (down from 7 percent in 2019).

Eighty-eight percent of Americans say they have a positive opinion of bottled water (46 percent had “very positive” and 42 percent saying “somewhat positive”). Only 12 percent of people say they had a negative opinion of bottled water (10 percent had “somewhat negative” and 2 percent “very negative”).

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This positive sentiment is up in 2022 compared to the 2019 survey when 84 percent had a positive opinion of bottled water (41 percent “very positive” and 43 percent “somewhat positive”). And negative sentiment is down: 16 percent had a negative opinion (11 percent “somewhat” and 4 percent “very negative”) in 2019.

Ninety-six percent of Americans have purchased bottled water. This aligns with news that bottled water continues to be America’s No. 1 beverage, outselling soda (by volume) for the seventh year in a row in 2022, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC).

Seventy-two percent of Americans drink both bottled water and tap or filtered water. Nearly 1 in 5 (19 percent) drink only bottled water, while 8 percent drink only tap or filtered water. One percent say they don’t drink water at all.

Questions concerning consumer knowledge about recycling, bottled water containers, and their impact on the environment found:

  • “It’s important to recycle all recyclable consumer packaging.” 90 percent of Americans agree with this statement.
  • “Making products from recycled material is better for the environment than using virgin (new) material.” 89 percent of Americans agree.
  • “Plastic is a valuable resource because it can be recycled over and over again.” 78 percent of Americans agree.
  • “I am more likely to buy a product packaged in recycled content over one that is not.” 72 percent of Americans agree with this statement
  • “Plastic drink containers are more environmentally friendly compared to all other packaging types (e.g., aluminum, cartons, glass).” 61 percent of Americans agree.

When it comes to who should be primarily responsible for recycling water bottles, nearly 2 in 3 Americans (64 percent) believe it should be consumers, 58 percent say companies that make or sell bottled water and 47 percent say the government (41 percent say local or state and 26 percent say federal). (Numbers do not equal 100 because respondents were able to choose more than one answer.)

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

Bottled water containers, on average, use 59 percent 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, read more here.

According to the survey, 86 percent of Americans say they at least sometimes drink bottled water while they travel, 84 percent of employed Americans drink it at work, and 81 percent of all Americans drink it at home (a 5 percent increase from 76 percent in 2019), while 77 percent drink it at social events where other drinks are served (up 7 percent from 70 percent in 2019). In addition, 74 percent drink bottled water when shopping and on the go, 73 percent drink it at sports and entertainment venues, and 67 percent consume bottled water at the gym or when exercising.

Bottled water drinkers find many factors important when choosing a beverage, but taste (96 percent), quality (96 percent), and safety (90 percent) are top the list. Bottled water drinkers also say that features like ready to enjoy (79 percent), convenient packaging when on the go (81 percent), and re-sealable containers (77 percent) 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 68 percent say the lack of artificial sweeteners is important.

Bottled water containers are 100 percent 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 49 percent (by count) of all PET plastic collected in curbside systems throughout the United States. Soda bottles make up only 18 percent 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.

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