UK consumption of water drinks increased 11% in 2016 to more than 3,700 million liters, with a retail value in excess of £2.7 billion (US$3.38 billion), according to a report from Zenith Global.
This marks the fourth consecutive year of double-digit industry growth.
Sales of plain bottled water in retail packs surged 14% to over 2,900 million liters, while volume through bottled water coolers advanced a more modest 3% to 300 million liters.
Sales of flavored, functional and juicy waters grew by just 2%, amidst greater media scrutiny over sugar content.
Plain bottled water strengthened its dominance to account for 87% of total sales, reaching average annual consumption of 50 liters per person.
Flavored water now has a 12% volume share, with juicy and functional water making up the remaining 2%.
In terms of water types, still water drinks accounted for 83% of total volume in 2016, a marginal increase, leaving sparkling water drinks responsible for 17%.
The top five UK plain water brands – Evian, Highland Spring, Buxton, Nestlé Pure Life and Volvic – are collectively responsible for 30% of total water drinks sales.
The top five water plus brands – Volvic Touch of Fruit, Calypso Clear, Drench Juicy, Trederwen Essence and Perfectly Clear – account for 5%.
“Bottled water is undoubtedly benefiting from being in the right place at the right time,” said chairman Richard Hall.
“Most of it is natural, local and affordable. All of it is convenient, healthy and refreshing.”
“Environmental concerns are being addressed by lightweighting, improved recycling and recycled content.”
“New initiatives are being developed to find renewable sources of packaging materials,” he said.
“I would expect almost all flavored, functional and juicy waters to ensure they are not caught by the new soft drink levy in 2018.”
Zenith forecasts that, by 2021, the total market for UK water drinks will exceed 5.5 billion liters, almost 50% above 2016 levels.
Plain bottled water is set to lead this advance, with average growth of 9% per year.
Flavored, functional and juicy waters are forecast to expand more slowly.
“For the first time, it is realistic to foresee water drinks overtaking carbonated soft drinks,” added Hall.
“In fact, this will almost certainly happen in little more than five years.”