Sector News

Four key factors impacting the water dispenser industry in 2020

July 7, 2020
Food & Drink

According to a report by Zenith Global, the value of the UK water dispenser market increased to £192 million in 2019. The total combined revenue from bottled water dispensers, mains-fed units and integrated tap systems increased 2.3% in 2019, signalling it’s seventh consecutive year of growth.

Here, FoodBev Media and Refreshment magazine examine four factors that are contributing to this significant growth.

Customisation 

In recent years, the water industry has seen an increased demand for customised and personalised options as consumers are seeking ways to make their water more interesting.

Blupura’s marketing manager, Debora Screpanti, told Refreshment magazine that in the water dispenser industry, end users are desiring water customised to their personal taste. For example, “It can be with bigger or smaller bubbles, colder or warmer, programmed for the size of their own bottles, etc.”

Taste is an important factor in providing customised solutions, but we are now seeing the water industry taking a step further towards personalisation by exploring functionality. The incorporation of specific functional ingredients, such as vitamins and minerals, has escalated in the bottled water industry recently and the water dispenser industry is expected to follow suit.

For example, US start-up Bevi is currently developing beverage machines that allow the infusion of vitamins, supplements and other functional ingredients. Adding functional ingredients to dispensers rather than bottles provides a more sustainable and practical solution, as these ingredients are stronger and more functional in dispensers, according to Bevi’s CEO Sean Grundy.

The demand for functionality is a symptom of the growth of health-conscious consumerism. Tailored water solutions, such as hydration tracking, have the potential to offer consumers benefits beyond the product itself.

Cosmetal’s Acqua Alma ecosystem allows consumers to track the amount of water they are drinking through an app, to ensure they are meeting their hydration needs. Such technological advancements show how customisation and personalisation can provide differentiation within the water industry.

Read more about making water interesting in the April May 2020 issue of Refreshment.

Sustainability

The drastic impact of single-use plastic on the environment has brought about a ’refill revolution’ in recent years, leading to an increased demand for water dispensers.

In December 2019, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Greenpeace urged supermarkets in the UK to install water dispensers as an alternative to single-use plastic bottles.

Cities throughout the UK are also moving to address the lack of municipal water fountains. For example, London has partnered with Thames Water with the aim to introduce 100 new fountains over the next year.

Thames Water’s project manager Tom Grant told Refreshment: “The partnership aims to reduce the amount of single-use plastic by encouraging people to refill with tap water whilst on the move.”

“The average London adult buys more than three plastic water bottles every week, a startling 175 bottles every year per person. Giving people access to free, world-class tap water helps to reduce this.”

Meanwhile, an ongoing debate in the industry centres around which kind of dispensers are the most sustainable. Ultimately, many in the industry have claimed that mains-fed water dispensers offer a sustainable alternative to bottled coolers, as they do not rely on the use of plastic bottles. Mains-fed units also reduce the need for bottle deliveries and collections, reducing road congestion and pollution.

Of course, if plastic bottles from bottled coolers are recycled properly, they can be converted into new packaging material and used again, creating a circular economy for plastics. Many water businesses have made efforts to increase recycling rates through education and collection schemes, while the water industry has also introduced a range of fully-recyclable packaging and plastic cup alternatives. For example, Eden Springs launched a range of eco-friendly cups and then went on to introduce a cup that is not only biodegradable but also reusable.

The latest edition of Refreshment magazine rounds up some more recent packaging developments and further explores how the industry is taking steps towards a more sustainable future.

Water quality

One of the biggest challenges the water industry faces today is ensuring that water remains safe. The US Flint water crisis in 2016, highlights that the contamination of drinking water has become a more noticeable issue in the developed world.

Intensification of agriculture, land-use changes, more variable rainfall patterns due to climate change and growing industrialisation are just a few of the factors leading to ‘an invisible water crisis’, according to a 2019 report by the World Bank.

Developing innovations to combat this water crisis is imperative and advancements in filtration technology have provided the industry with some new solutions. For example, earlier this year, DS Services launched a new IoT-enabled filtration system, providing an innovative solution which can continuously monitor water quality, the life of filters and determines whether dispensers need maintenance.

Other advances in filtration technology, such as ultraviolet (UV) water treatment solutions for dispensers, can also ensure a wide range of threats to water quality can be treated effectively.

The December 2019/January 2020 issue of Refreshment lists UV water treatment as one of the main dispenser trends for this year. An increasing number of water dispenser manufacturers are incorporating UVC LEDs in their machines, and technological developments mean that UV solutions are gradually increasing flow rates for effective disinfection. This means that UV solutions could potentially be used for water treatment on a larger scale in the near future.

Covid-19

The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on many different industries and the water dispensing industry is no exception.

Many water dispensers will have been left unused during the lockdown period, and there are concerns that water dispensers and other shared surfaces could be a transmission point for the virus.

That being said, once the severity of the pandemic has abated somewhat, hydration needs will certainly not subside and may even be boosted. Water dispenser companies have been looking into innovative solutions as the world adapts to a new post-lockdown normality.

As many people are now returning back to shared working environments, ensuring water cooler sanitation is crucial. For instance, water dispenser manufacturer Canaletas has developed a ‘hands-free pedal kit’ allowing customers to convert existing water fountains into hands-free units.

Bevi has also unveiled a new touchless dispensing feature, which allows consumers to use the firm’s beverage dispenser through an app, without using the machine’s touchscreen.

Looking forward, John Wicks, chairman of the Water Dispenser & Hydration Association (WHA), claims “dispenser manufacturers will be looking to adapt to our new world and innovation will be important, but the fact remains that dispensers are among the many workplace surfaces, and vigilance will be needed to keep all surfaces clean and safe.”

Read the full interview with John Wicks in the June/July 2020 issue of Refreshment, as he discusses how the water industry has adapted to the Covid-19 pandemic.

By Heather Burrellon

Source: Food Bev Media

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