Aluminum Takes On the Bottled Water Market
For the past decade, the bottled water market has been the U.S. beverage industry’s hottest growth commodity. According to the Government Accountability Office, U.S. per capita consumption has doubled over the period, from 13.4 gallons in 1997 to 29.3 gallons in 2007.
That increase has been instrumental in driving the growth of polyethylene terephthalate (“PET”)—with the U.S. bottled water market accounting for fully 20 percent of the growth in global PET demand in beverages over the period, according to Canadean Global Beverage Industry Reports.
And prospects are for the market to continue to grow—albeit at a somewhat slower pace. MarketResearch.com forecasts that the bottled water market in the U.S., Europe, and Japan will average 5.3 percent compound annual growth between 2006 and 2012. Already, an estimated 200 billion bottles of water are consumed annually worldwide, which if lined up together would stretch to the moon and back 56 times.
And therein lies a problem behind this otherwise healthful trend. Only a small percentage of these bottles are recycled—23.4 percent, according to the most recent survey by the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR). Moreover, the overwhelming majority of PET containers that are recycled do not become new bottles—but rather are downcycled for less valuable applications such as fleece, toys, or plastic lumber.
An Aluminum Answer?
In recent years a number of brands have begun introducing water in cans or aluminum bottles. In 2004 HiO Silver began packaging its “oxygen water” in aluminum cans for their superior protective properties as well as for convenience. Last year, Aqua Planet launched its vitamin-enhanced water in the resealable Cap Can from Rexam citing the same reasons—as well as the package’s 100 percent recyclability.
Earlier this summer, LYF launched its vitamin enhanced water in Ball Corporation’s 16-oz Alumi-Tek recloseable bottle can. “This bottle provides a perfect vessel for these products because it has a very distinct and premium image that is consistent with the benefits the beverage offers. Plus it is recloseable, tamper-resistant, chills quickly, and is 100 percent recyclable,” company CEO Gwen Miles said.
Canned aluminum water has been a staple of humanitarian relief for some time. Anheuser-Busch—the world’s largest recycler of aluminum beverage containers—annually supplies millions of cans of (still) water to victims of hurricanes and other natural disasters in the U.S. CannedWater4Kids—an initiative launched last year to bring clean, safe drinking water to children in developing countries—similarly uses the aluminum can to package its water.
“The aluminum can was selected because it is safe, readily available, sustainable (recyclable) and economical,” the charity notes on its website. “By tapping into the global can industry, clean water, packaged in aluminum cans, will become our symbol and billboard for spreading the word while developing strong grassroots awareness and participation.”
Reusable Aluminum Water Bottles
Perhaps the most notable development in water bottle packaging recently has been the growth in reusable aluminum bottles. Companies such as Sigg have positioned refillable, reusable aluminum bottles as the most environmentally responsible way to drink water.
Sales of Sigg aluminum water bottles have roughly tripled in the four years since it launched in the U.S. The company sold six million bottles in 2008—almost half of those in the U.S.
In a recent interview with the New York Times, Sigg CEO Steve Wasik forecast that, despite the current global economic downturn, the company forecasts 15 percent growth in its bottle sales for 2009. Perhaps the only thing preventing Sigg from a still higher growth rate is the growing numbers of competitors whose reusable aluminum bottles now line the shelves at supermarkets, camping stores, and other retail outlets.
Adding to the consumer appeal of reusable aluminum bottles’ “eco-chic” image is the multitude of colorful designs with which they are emblazoned. Sigg alone has over 100 designs—from day-glo creations to a stark red-on-white design boasting the self-explanatory phrase: “I am not plastic.”