Restaurants Continue to Capitalize on Canadians’ Preference for Bottled Water

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Bottled-water sales are holding firm in Canada, with a recent study from the Canadian Bottled Water Association (CBWA) showing 79 per cent of respondents consumed or purchased bottled water in 2017. As bottled-water brands work to minimize the environmental impact of used plastic bottles, consumers continue to choose still, sparkling and flavoured bottle water because they’re convenient, but also because they prefer them to tap.

Research from Quebec-based ESKA water shows slight growth in the flavoured-water segment in 2017, but unflavoured water still represents almost 90 per cent of its retail-market segmentation by volume. The same research indicates still water significantly outperformed sparkling, representing more than 92 per cent of ESKA’s retail-market segmentation by volume.

Still and sparkling certainly dominate in restaurants, where bottled-water sales have remained stable, according to research from Guelph, Ont.-based Nestlé Waters Canada, with respondents averaging 3.3 bottled-water purchases per week at foodservice outlets.

Caroline Smart, director of Procurement for Joey Restaurant Group, says its restaurants have actually seen a slight increase in bottled-water purchases in recent years. Joey restaurants offer Acqua Panna still (750 ml) and San Pellegrino sparkling (750 ml) for $7.50 each (although prices vary slightly by location). Smart reports that San Pellegrino tends to outsell Acqua Panna. “We have a strong following of San Pellegrino sparkling water and customers specifically ask for it,” says Smart.

Cliff Snell, director of Business Operations for Toronto-based Oliver & Bonacini Hospitality (O&B), says its restaurants switched to filtering its own still and sparkling water on-site, but then reintroduced bottled water in 2017 at two locations in response to diner requests. “Many guests who previously only drank bottled water are now happy with a filtered option,” says Snell. “But a large number still ask for bottled, especially in our higher-end establishments.” O&B offers San Pellegrino sparkling and Acqua Panna still, both for $8 per 750-ml bottle. Snell says the two are roughly equal in popularity at O&B restaurants.

While preference seems to be the catalyst behind bottled-water sales in restaurants, convenience is another significant driving force, according to the CBWA. Its 2017 study found 32 per cent of respondents chose bottled water over tap because it was more convenient.

In spite of bottled water’s consistent popularity, brands continue striving to address the environmental impact of plastic bottles, which is a lingering concern for some consumers. “Nestlé has committed to ensuring 100 per cent of its packaging in all products is either recyclable or reusable by 2025,” says Jennifer Kerr, director of Corporate Affairs for Nestlé Waters Canada. “We work with organizations such as the Canadian Beverage Association to continue to find ways to increase recycling in municipalities and, more specifically, public spaces, where there is a gap in recycling in Canada.”

Elizabeth Griswold, executive director of the CBWA, says the environmental impact of bottled water has been a top concern in the industry for decades. “Until recovery rates for PET (polyethylene terephthalate) beverage containers is at 100 per cent, we’re not going to stop trying,” says Griswald.

Written by Jessica Huras

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