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Bottled water is an interesting beverage category. Doesn’t it seem strange that a water bottle costs more than a soft drink? It does until you recognize that anything is possible with the right marketing strategy and water bottle design.
The bottled water industry racked in a massive 283.01 billion in revenues for 2021, and experts project an increase of another 6.7% in 2022. Bottled water seems resilient against media attention received about issues such as waste, cost, and quality.
While the industry continues to grow, so does the competition. It poses the question, how can a bottled water company stand out in a competitive industry with minimal profit margins?
The answer is in the Bottled water design. Not just the look or label design, but the entire packaging experience. This article provides education on trends and bottled water packaging design strategies.
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The Rise of Branded Bottle Water
To best understand the current bottled water market, we must look to its origins. Water distribution began because of poor (and dangerous) water quality in many communities. Distribution determined demand and American capitalists in the 1850s piggybacked off of this.
What the Europeans had done over 200 years earlier, entrepreneurs introduced the social elite to luxury mineral water packed in glass bottles. Like other CPG categories, water had a more eco-friendly bottle design before the invention of the plastic bottle.
Premium water included a water bottle design, furthering the message of health and hydration. This led the way to the “bottled at the source” revolution.
Bottled at the Source
To this day, many bottled water brands use an image as a nonverbal purchase, further emphasizing the bottled at the source benefit. But in time, marketing the sanitary benefits compared to tap water rather than poor quality well and river water.
Consumers in metropolitan cities recognize the damaging effects of tap water and will pay the price for reverse osmosis or spring water, but their desire is for the latter. We can see this in the reverse osmosis purified drinking water brands “appearing” to be sourced from springs.
This trend has not receded and, where possible, we should consider it a purchase driver worth testing in our packaging design process.
There is a subconscious connection between carbonation and mineral water. This is because the first sparkling waters came from springs or wells of natural water because of volcanic gases. The outcome was bubbling water packed full of minerals.
We cannot say the same about most of today’s sparkling water brands. When bottled at the source, they take spring water through a laboratory process, adding carbonic acid. Scientists accomplished this by infusing high gas pressure into low temperatures.
Does the consumer of carbonated drinks clearly understand this message? Nope. Most will not question manufactured bubbles, and brands can demand a premium price as long as the experience appears natural.
Much like home reverse osmosis systems, testing a purchase driver of lab-developed bubbles being better would be interesting if this is true.
Luxury Water Bottles
There is still a serious market for the demographic in which bottled water first served. Luxury water means more today than when it began. From alkaline tested to exotically sourced, these bottled water brands command a serious price.
Luxury water ranges from $5.00 to $60,000.00 for a single bottle. You heard that right, 60K for a product you can drink from your kitchen sink. If you are a brand questioning the price you charge, remove subjectivity from the packaging design process, and test for what consumers will pay.
It works for international water brands such as Acqua di Cristallo and their 24K gold bottle!
Branded Water Bottles
Let’s come back down to planet earth and recognize that not all water brands succeed in their respective retailers. In 2022, there are serious concerns that bottled water brands must address with their product design and packaging.
There are enemies of bottled water at every turn. One of the largest examples is Paris, France, which eliminated bottled water as a CPG category. With innovative sanitation and remineralization processes, you get free high-quality drinking water on nearly every corner of their city streets.
This isn’t the only weapon used to fight against bottled water.
The Fight Against Bottled Water
Plastic water bottles are the elephant in the room. There is such a stigma around plastic that environmentally conscious consumers avoid plastic water bottles even if made from 100% recycled material.
There may not be enough room on the label for a former consumer to return to plastic packaging. However, there’s an opportunity to convert current plastic bottle consumers to a more sustainable packaging design.
If your brand continues to use plastic bottles, consider how you can appear more natural if you hope to capture consumers at the intersection of convenience and sustainability.
The reusable water bottle industry is growing, but not as fast as bottled water. At an expected 3.3% annual growth rate, we expect the reusable water bottle industry to reach 10.63 billion by 2028.
Of course, any situation that creates a significant environmental impact could disrupt this.
The actual issue with reusable water bottles is where to find quality drinking water. Therefore, brands such as Brita introduced filters inside of reusable water bottles, turning tap water into drinking water. Another reputable opponent to packaged drinking water brands.
How Water Bottles Will Survive
We witnessed a massive demand for water bottles thanks to the pandemic. Out-of-stock grocery stores limiting purchase quantities increased product scarcity. In this situation, a brand’s environmental impact, branding, and label artwork were irrelevant to its revenues, as everything on the shelf was selling.
But the bottled water industry cannot depend on a pandemic for its survival. Brands must pivot both into consumer expectations and generational changes.
For new-to-market brands, packaging, branding, and artwork must speak to demographics willing to listen to their pitch. For established brands, a balance of offense and defense is necessary to ensure they do not lose market share.
For water brands to sustain themselves, they must consider sustainability in their packaging design. Let’s look at some of the options emerging in the market.
We know you have been expecting this topic, but eco-friendly packaging is the future of bottled water design. To get the elephant (plastic bottles) out of the room, we must address it head-on. Let’s look at today’s bottled water packaging innovations that reduce landfill waste.
Boxed water offers a more natural packaging appeal. How this translates into hydrating and refreshing may be another story. Consumers of cardboard water products make premeditative decisions. Being eco-friendly is top of mind and considered at every point of their shopping experience.
Do thirsty consumers run to boxed water in their local Circle K? doubtful.
Aluminum Can Packaging
How do you make a product 100% recyclable without adding additional costs? Choose an existing packaging type in the beverage industry. Water in cans encourages recycling without upping the retail price. Unfortunately, consumers expect carbonation, so there may be an expectation/experience mismatch if your brand doesn’t offer sparkling water.
Glass bottle packaging
Glass bottles offer a level of sophistication unmatched by another packaging. The heavier weight, smooth texture, and clarity make glass bottled water a popular choice for premium brands. But glass bottles are sustainable as well.
Since premium consumers are more philanthropic, they may sustain a higher price if it means doing well for the environment. A brand may capitalize on this purchase driver as there seems to be a gap in the bottled water industry.
PET Bottle Packaging
You rarely find that a consumer understands what a PET bottle is. As we mentioned, we consider plastic an environmentally destructive choice, regardless of its impact. Almost every plastic bottled water brand uses PET, but very few can market this effectively.
If you are using PET and want to promote sustainability, communicate it quickly on your bottle and in longer form on your secondary packaging. Off the packaging, consider how you will communicate this message on E-commerce product descriptions. Prioritize this topic anywhere that permits context-based product messaging.
With the popularity of plant-based consumer products comes a rise in plant-based packaging. Biodegradable packaging helps reduce plastic waste while offering the same flexible feel. This packaging type may be cost-prohibitive for startup brands targeting niche locations such as health food stores but is worth considering.
Water Bottle Packaging Design Strategy
Many considerations must be worked through before finalizing your water bottle packaging design. Working through your packaging design strategy removes many of the packaging types we have discussed, presenting a smaller group of options.
The following questions will help your positioning, from label design to marketing strategy.
Who is Your Customer?
Trick question. You actually have multiple customer profiles. You have the consumer, the distributor, and the store itself. Your packaging design strategy should consider all three buyer personas. Get specific and understand the most intricate details about these individuals or teams.
Buyer personas differ from brand to brand. Some water brands focus on business 2 business and need a design that appeals to many people yet looks good on B2B platforms such as Elevate Marketplace. Natural brands may require an e-commerce strategy to enhance their retail outlet, capturing the attention of online grocers such as Thrive Market.
Who Are Your Competitors?
You must, and I repeat must understand the competitive landscape for your product. Once you understand your consumer and retailer, find out who is fighting in the shopping arena. Both in packaging design and package testing, determine the viability of your product against its industry rivals.
Can you Customize Secondary Packaging?
If you can, you must. Most water brands miss this opportunity. As mentioned, you have three customers. With effective secondary packaging, revenues increase even if only the distributor and the merchandiser see your case packaging.
We have touched on it several times in this article, but now let’s get serious. Without package design testing, the odds are not in your favor. Competing against established brands in this historic beverage category demands consumer testing in a simulated buying environment.
A flashy water bottle label design is not a strong enough revenue driver to compensate for low margins and heavy freight costs. Testing is not optional in this competitive industry and will make or break your brand.
Packaging Design Agency
Want a best-selling brand? SmashBrand creates custom packaging designs for the CPG industry. Our proprietary testing methodology ensures that your brand increases in purchase intent and brand recall, leading to significantly increased revenues.
Book a time to discuss your project with the SmashBrand team.