Americans are drinking more than ever, at least for the most basic of packaged liquids, bottled water. In fact, when it comes to hydration, US consumers would rather reach for bottled waterthan for a faucet.
According to new data from the Beverage Marketing Corp. (BMC), bottled water reached new peaks in both volume consumed and sales in 2022 in the US.
Bottled water’s total volume sold in 2022 was 15.9 billion gallons, its highest volume ever, surpassing carbonated soft drinks for the seventh year in a row. In terms of retail dollars, 2022 sales approached $46 billion, up from $40.8 billion in 2021.
“Numerous qualities account for bottled water’s unceasing resonance with US consumers, including its associations with healthfulness, convenience, safety, and value,” says John G. Rodwan, Jr., BMC’s editorial director. “Consumers’ thirst for beverages that offer benefits beyond refreshment alone also contributed to the fundamental hydrating beverage’s rise in the beverage standings. Bottled water’s zero-calorie status and its lack of artificial ingredients appeal to many consumers. Even where tap water may be safe and readily available, people may prefer bottled water, which they often believe tastes better.”
For more than a decade, consumers have been increasingly choosing bottled water instead of less-healthy packaged drinks. Bottled water’s volume surpassed soft drinks for the first time in 2016 and has done so every year since.
Americans consumed, on average, 46.5 gallons of bottled water in 2022, compared to 36 gallons of soda. Consumer demand for bottled water has significantly contributed to the industry’s growth (30% since 2012), as people continue to switch from other less-healthy packaged drinks to bottled water. So much so, that nine out of 10 Americans (91%) want bottled water to be available wherever other drinks are sold, according to a survey conducted on behalf of the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) by The Harris Poll.
Image courtesy of Alamy/Jakob Kamender
Why do Americans prefer bottled water versus readily available tap water?
We posed that question to ChatGPT and this is what the artificial intelligence app reported:
People may have various reasons for preferring bottled water over tap water. Some common reasons include:
Perceived purity: Bottled water is often marketed as pure and clean, which can lead people to believe it is safer and healthier than tap water. They may perceive bottled water as being free from contaminants, chemicals, or additives that they believe could be present in tap water.
Taste and odor: Some individuals find that bottled water has a more appealing taste and lacks any unpleasant odors that they might associate with tap water. Bottled water companies often use filtration methods or source water from specific locations, which can result in a different taste profile.
Convenience and portability: Bottled water provides convenience and portability, allowing people to have access to water on the go. It is readily available in various sizes and can be easily carried in bags or taken to places where tap water might not be easily accessible or trusted, such as during travel or outdoor activities.
Safety concerns: In certain regions or situations where the quality of tap water is a concern, people may choose bottled water as a perceived safer alternative. This can be due to issues such as water contamination, infrastructure concerns, or inadequate water treatment systems in some areas.
Marketing and branding: Effective marketing campaigns by bottled water companies have created a perception that bottled water is a premium product associated with quality and purity. The branding, packaging, and labeling of bottled water can influence consumer preferences and choices.
As an aside, three takeaway remindersfor me as a B2B packaging editor per ChatGPT’s marketing and branding comment:
- Never underestimate the power of packaging, especially for a commodity as common as water;
- Don't overlook the influence of marketing; and
- Perception is everything.
Image courtesy of Antonio Sáez Caro/Alamy Photo Stock
IBWA says added benefit is that bottled water packaging is 100% recyclable.
“People are choosing to drink bottled water because it is a healthy beverage choice, having zero calories and no caffeine or additives, and it has the added benefit of packaging that is 100% recyclable,” says Jill Culora, IBWA’s vice president of communications. “Not only are bottled water containers 100% recyclable — including the cap — but they also use much less plastic than soda and other packaged beverages.”
Soda containers, on average, use 252% more PET plastic than bottled water containers (22.2 grams vs. 8.8 grams for 16.9-ounce containers). Soft drinks and other sugary beverages need thicker plastic containers due to their carbonation and/or bottling processes.
Even with continuing growth and increased consumption, bottled water still has the smallest impact on the environment—thanks to the fact that it has the smallest water and energy use footprint of any packaged beverage. On average, only 1.39 Liters of water (including the 1 Liter of water consumed) and 0.21 mega joules of energy are used to produce 1 Liter of finished bottled water.
Most bottled water is packaged in 100% recyclable PET #1 plastic and HDPE #2 plastic, which are the plastics most recognized by consumers as being recyclable and the most recycled plastics in the world. Consumers can be confident about recycling bottled water containers because they are among the few consumer packaging types that are universally recyclable across the US. Not all cities and towns recycle glass bottles and laminated paper cartons, which are usually comprised of multiple layers of paper, plastic, and aluminum or wax.
Culora tells us that there were no surprises from the latest study. "BMC keeps predicting continued growth and that is what we are seeing each year."
PET bottles’ clear benefits vs. other plastic products and packaging.
The report summarizes the packaging benefits of PET bottles…
- Bottled water’s recyclability distinguishes it from other common plastic products that are truly “single-use,” such as non-recyclable plastic items such as straws, cutlery, and plates; certain food and goods packaging, for example, films and heat-sealed and multilayer laminate bags, and non-PET packaging.
- In addition, PET plastic bottled water containers are the most recognized by consumers as being recyclable, which is likely the reason why they are a valuable resource as the most recycled containers in US curbside recycling programs.
- Recycling facilities know that there is a huge industry demand for post-consumer PET and HDPE plastics. Many bottled water companies use recycled PET and HDPE plastic to create new bottles, which helps to reduce their environmental impact further because they aren’t using virgin plastic.
- Bottled water drinkers recycle more often than drinkers of other beverages. Of all the PET containers recycled through curbside collections systems, bottled water containers make up approximately 49%. Empty bottled water containers should always be returned or placed in a recycling bin, but when they are not, they make up 3.3% of all drink packaging that ends up in landfills, and only 0.02% of all landfill waste.
- Studies have shown that bottled water containers are also not a major source of ocean pollution and microplastics. A vast majority of ocean plastic comes from sources other than the US. In fact, if the US were to completely eliminate all plastic use, the effort would only result in a 0.25% reduction of ocean plastics, data from Oxford University’s Our World In Data website shows. A striking statistic is that bottled water accounts for less than 1.58% of all plastics used in the US, which means we are talking about 1.58% of 0.25%.
There's also this NAPCOR study, PET Bottles Have Smaller Environmental Impact than Glass and Aluminum Containers,published in March.
“Consumer preference for healthy hydration and bottled water is really good news for public health,” says Culora. “This is particularly important as the nation continues to experience high rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Helping people make healthier choices is at the core of the bottled water business. Consumers have made it clear that there’s a demand for safe, healthy, and convenient bottled water, as they are responsible for propelling bottled water to the title of America’s most popular packaged beverage, by volume.”
IBWA encourages all consumers to make healthy hydration a part of their lifestyle and select bottled water as their beverage of choice and always recycle their empty containers—with the caps on.
Growing Thirst for Bottled Water in the US? ›
Americans consumed, on average, 46.5 gallons of bottled water in 2022, compared to 36 gallons of soda. Consumer demand for bottled water has significantly contributed to the industry's growth (30% since 2012), as people continue to switch from other less-healthy packaged drinks to bottled water.Why is everyone buying bottled water 2023? ›
A distilled water shortage is happening in 2023 as several factors are keeping the product from reaching store shelves. A lot of the current problems surrounding the 2023 distilled water shortage have to do with the Covid-19 pandemic. That shut down many factories as lockdowns spread across the country.How many people drink bottled water in the US? ›
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).Has the consumption of bottled water increased? ›
The bottled water market saw 73% growth from 2010 to 2020, and consumption is on track to increase from around 350 billion litres in 2021 to 460 billion litres by 2030, according to the U.N. University's Institute for Water, Environment and Health.How many people prefer bottled water over tap? ›
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.Why are people switching to bottled water? ›
Important Facts About Bottled Water
For those who want to eliminate or moderate calories, sugar, caffeine, artificial flavors or colors, and other ingredients from their diet, choosing bottled water is the right move.
Americans spend billions of dollars every year on commercially bottled water. People choose bottled water for a variety of reasons including taste, convenience, as a substitute for other beverages, or because of perceived health benefits.What country drinks the most bottled water? ›
According to the report, each person in Singapore spent US$1,348 (S$1,800) on bottled water and consumed 1,129 litres of bottled water in 2021, compared with second-placed Australians, who spent US$386 and consumed 504 litres a person.Why is there no bottled water in supermarkets? ›
A sudden increase in demand will topple the supply and demand equilibrium as consumers clear the shelves faster than suppliers can replenish them. Thus, this creates a shortage in the supply of bottled water.
So, why is it that in developed countries, where safe drinking water is literally 'on tap', we continue to buy bottled water? The answer is simple, effective marketing. Bottled water is marketed to us as cleaner, healthier, crisper and tastier than regular old tap water.
Do Americans drink bottled water at home? ›
A worrying one-fifth of Americans don't trust their tap water at home. Water bottles are one of the top ten most littered single-use plastic items in the US, with 15.3 billion gallons of bottled water sold across the country in 2021.Is bottled water safer than tap water in the US? ›
Overall, it appears that tap water is a better option in most cases. It is convenient, free or inexpensive, and has much less of an environmental impact than bottled water. Tap water is also just as safe as bottled water, and most people will not be able to tell the difference in taste.How many Americans don't drink tap water? ›
They're not alone. More than 46 million people in the U.S. live with water insecurity—either no running water or water that may be unsafe to drink.Why should we not ban bottled water? ›
Bottled water is a practical emergency water supply. Bottled water is essential to public health – if tap water is not drinkable, then bottled water is a necessary replacement.Why are bottled water not allowed? ›
Bottled water bans have been proposed and enacted in several municipalities and campuses everywhere over such concerns as resource wastage, transportation emissions, plastic litter, and damage to affected aquifers.When did bottled water become a problem? ›
In the United States, the popularity of bottled water declined in the early 20th century, when the advent of water chlorination reduced public concerns about water-borne diseases in municipal water supplies.Why do Europeans only drink bottled water? ›
In many European countries, people prefer to drink bottled water despite the fact that tap water quality standards in the European Union (EU) are high and the water is not only safe for drinking, but also less expensive and more environmentally friendly.Why can't Americans drink water in other countries? ›
The most common contaminants found in tap water across many countries are: coli Bacteria. Coliform Bacteria. Nitrates.What state does most bottled water come from? ›
Impact of Bottled Water
Most of the big brands bottle their water from sources in California, which is known for its chronic drought issues. Most company headquarters and facilities are located in California, making it easier to bottle there.
California is the largest consumer of water in the US.
What country wastes the most water? ›
|Rank||Country||Total withdrawal (km³/year)|
In the environment, plastic bottles can break down into miniscule particles, called microplastics, which make their way into our food water, posing a potential risk to human health. Plastic can also leach toxic chemicals, affecting animals that ingest it, contaminating the animal and human food chains.Why do Italians buy bottled water? ›
Even though Italy has great drinking water coming straight out of the tap, many Italians prefer to drink bottled water, particularly at restaurants. Part of that has to do with the fact that Italy has many name-brand mineral waters that are considered healthier because of their mineral content.Why is bottled water not better than tap? ›
Bottled water is convenient and generally safe, but it's more expensive and less environmentally friendly than tap water. What's more, the microplastics in some products may pose health risks.Why is bottled water so expensive in America? ›
Many people wonder why bottled water costs so much more than tap water. The price has less to do with the water itself and more to do with business expenses. The associated costs are high when you factor in the manufacturing, transportation, and advertising costs of producing each bottle.Why do people think bottled water tastes better? ›
That's right, chlorine. The key difference between both the contents and the taste profiles of tap water and bottled water is chlorine. Bottled water doesn't have chlorine in its contents at all, but the swimming pool cleaning tool is used by the majority of water utilities in Australia.Why is bottled water wasteful? ›
The water bottling process releases 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually. Disposable water bottle waste washes into the ocean and kills 1.1 million marine creatures each year. Bottled water is tested for microbes and other pollutants 4 times less than tap water.What of bottled water in the USA is actually tap water? ›
Most bottled water is actually tap water—about sixty four percent by some estimates. Many bottled water brands simply repackage tap water, and make a killing on it. Coca-Cola owns Dasani, PepsiCo owns Aquafina and LIFEWTR, Nestle owns PureLife and Poland Spring, among others.What is the healthiest water to drink? ›
Mineral, structured, and pure spring water are some of the healthiest water you can drink because they're clean and contain all the essential minerals your body needs. Filtered water removes contaminants but might also remove essential minerals.What percentage of Americans buy bottled water? ›
More popular than soft drinks
Around 96% of Americans have purchased bottled water. 72% of Americans drink both bottled water and tap or filtered water. 19% drink only bottled water, while 8% drink only tap or filtered water (1% say they don't drink water at all).
Where in the United States is the water not safe to drink? ›
WHERE: Kentucky. This rural coal town is known for its polluted drinking water. In 2000, a coal company spilled 300 million gallons of coal slurry into its waterways and contaminated the system with arsenic and mercury.Which bottled water is the purest? ›
In all seriousness, SmartWater is deemed as one of the best water bottle brands out there, enabling you to achieve ultimate hydration through a special vapor-distillation process that eradicates impurities. Essentially, this sort of system emulates the hydrologic cycle that makes water as pure as a drop of rain.Is it cheaper to buy gallons of water or bottled? ›
The main advantage of tap water throughout the world is its low cost. Tap water costs a fraction of a penny per gallon. According to the Harvard Energy and Facilities department, tap water is 3000% less expensive per gallon than bottled water, at $0.02 per gallon to $0.64 per gallon of bottled water.Why do some people refuse to drink tap water? ›
The tap water smells strongly of chlorine, like a swimming pool, and residents frequently report problems with bad taste, discoloration, sediment, and irritated or burning skin after bathing. What's Really in Your Bottled Water?Is Mexican bottled water safe to drink? ›
No — Mexico Locals drink bottled water.
To make Mexico water safe to drink, you'd have to boil it or use a filterable water bottle like the Water-To-Go. Many locals buy a garrafón (five gallon water jug), and keep those in their homes for use.
Looking ahead, the demand for fresh water in many regions is likely to increase while supplies decrease due to a growing population, shifts in how land is used, and a changing climate.Has the consumption of bottled water has risen significantly over the last few decades? ›
Global bottled water consumption was characterized by a significant growth over the last decade and is still on the rise.What is the growth rate of the bottled water market? ›
The market is expected to grow annually by 6.34% (CAGR 2023-2027). In global comparison, most revenue is generated in the United States (US$94.07bn in 2023).How much bottled water is consumed each year? ›
In 2021, 15.3 billion gallons of bottled water were sold in the United States.Will we run out of water in 2050? ›
Says. Five billion people, or around two-thirds of the world's population, will face at least one month of water shortages by 2050, according to the first in a series of United Nations reports on how climate change is affecting the world's water resources.
Why is water usage declining? ›
A number of factors can be attributed to the 18 percent decline in thermoelectric-power withdrawals, including a shift to power plants that use more efficient cooling-system technologies, declines in withdrawals to protect aquatic life, and power plant closures.How many years of fresh water left? ›
Unless water use is drastically reduced, severe water shortage will affect the entire planet by 2040. "There will be no water by 2040 if we keep doing what we're doing today".Does bottled water contribute to water shortage? ›
The latest UN University report revealed that the annual sales of the global bottled water market is expected to double to US$500 billion worldwide this decade. This can increase stress in water-depleted areas while contributing to plastic pollution on land and in the oceans.What is the economic problem with bottled water? ›
Bottled water on average costs 300 times more than tap water, so even though the bottled water seems cheap when priced at $1, it is still magnitudes more expensive than its tap water equivalent.What are the trends for bottled water in 2023? ›
As the global water cooler market has seen an annual growth rate of 9.6%, 2023 will undoubtedly see a drive to eliminate single-use plastics and move towards a reusable and environmentally friendly future – putting a stop to the stocked drinks fridge, bottled table water in meeting rooms, and plastic bottle coolers.Is bottled water Safer Than Tap Water? ›
Overall, both tap and bottled water are considered good ways to hydrate. However, tap water is generally a better option, as it's just as safe as bottled water but costs considerably less and has a much lower environmental impact.Who sells the most bottled water? ›
- China – 362 trillion gallons.
- United States – 216 trillion gallons.
- Brazil – 95 trillion gallons.
- Russia – 71 trillion gallons.
- Mexico – 53 trillion gallons.
- India – 30 trillion gallons.
- England – 20 trillion gallons.
- France – 20 trillion gallons.
Each time you buy bottled water, you're really paying for the plastic. Or rather, the costs associated with manufacturing said plastic. In fact, more than 90% of what you're paying is for the bottle itself.