Consumers want bottled water to be available wherever drinks are sold, and if it’s not, most will choose another packaged beverage that uses much more plastic
International Bottled Water Association
January 10, 2020
Alexandria, VA – More than 9 in 10 Americans (91 percent) say bottled water should be available wherever other drinks are sold, according to a new national survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults aged 18 and older conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA).
And if plain bottled water is not available, 74 percent of people who identify bottled water as among their most preferred beverages said they would choose another packaged drink: soda (19 percent), coffee (9 percent), sparkling bottled water (7 percent), tea (7 percent), juice/fruit drinks (7 percent), sports drink (6 percent), flavored or sweetened sparkling or still bottled water (5 percent), functional water (5 percent), bottled tea (5 percent), energy drink (3 percent), and any other packaged drink (1 percent).
Among the remaining 26 percent, 1 percent said they would stay thirsty, half (12 percent) would drink filtered tap water, 7 percent would drink from a public water fountain, while 5 percent would drink unfiltered tap water.
Ninety-four percent of Americans said they have purchased bottled water, which aligns with news that bottled water continues to be America’s favorite drink, outselling soda (by volume) for the fourth year in a row in 2019, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC).
Much of bottled water’s rise in popularity stems from people switching from caloric drinks to water. In fact, since 2006, 69 percent of the growth in bottled water consumption has come from people switching from carbonated soft drinks and fruit juice to water, data from the BMC shows.
“People are choosing beverages with fewer calories, so they are shifting away from less healthy packaged drinks and are choosing the healthiest option – bottled water,” says Jill Culora, IBWA’s vice president of communications. “People who make this switch are also helping the environment because not only are bottled water containers 100 percent recyclable (including the cap) but they also contain much less plastic than soda and other packaged beverages.”
Bottled water containers, on average, use 59 percent less PET plastic than other packaged beverages (9.89 grams vs. 23.9 grams for 16.9-ounce containers). Soft drinks and other sugary beverages need thicker plastic containers due to their carbonation and/or bottling processes.
“We are hearing from PET plastic recyclers that because of the consumption shift from soda to bottled water, their facilities need to recycle twice as many of the lighter weight water bottles to get the same amount of plastic resin they would have from soda bottles,” says Culora.
According to the survey, 86 percent of Americans said they drink bottled water while they travel, 83 percent of employed Americans drink it at work, and 76 percent of all Americans drink it at home, while 72 percent drink bottled water when shopping and on the go, 70 percent drink it at social events where other drinks are served, 68 percent at sports and entertainment venues, and 66 percent consume bottled water at the gym or when exercising.
Bottled water drinkers find many factors important when choosing a beverage, but taste (97 percent), quality (97 percent), and safety (91 percent) are at the top of their list. Bottled water drinkers also say that features like ready to enjoy (81 percent), convenient packaging when on the go (82 percent), and re-sealable containers (82 percent) are important to them when choosing a beverage. Sixty-five percent of bottled water drinkers say low calories are important when choosing a beverage, while 72 percent say the lack of artificial sweeteners is important.
Of the bottled water drinkers who have a packaging preference (86 percent), nearly 8 out of 10 (79 percent) prefer it packaged in plastic bottles. Fifteen percent said glass, 4 percent said metal cans, and 2 percent said paper cartons or box.
When it comes to environmental concerns, 91 percent of Americans agreed that it’s important to recycle all recyclable consumer packaging, with 75 percent agreeing that plastic is a valuable resource because it can be recycled over and over again, and 89 percent agreeing that making new products from recycled material is better for the environment than using virgin (never before used) material. Nearly 7 out of 10 (69 percent) said consumers are primarily responsible for recycling water bottles, compared to companies (61 percent), government (31 percent) and a combination of all three (20 percent).
While most people drink both tap and bottled water (71 percent), those who drink only/mostly bottled water is up 2 percent from last year (39 percent, compared to 37 percent in 2018).
Not surprisingly, the survey showed bottled water (still and/or sparkling, unflavored and/or flavored and functional) is among their most preferred non-alcoholic beverages at 67 percent compared to coffee at 65 percent and soft drinks (regular and/or diet) at 57 percent, a 2 percent decrease from last year.
Bottled water containers are 100 percent recyclable – even the caps. And bottled water is the most recognized and recycled PET plastic container in curbside recycling systems. In fact, bottled water containers make up approximately 55 percent (by count) of all PET plastic collected in curbside systems throughout the United States. Soda bottles make up only 14.7 percent of the PET plastic collected in curbside programs, according to the National Association for PET Container Resources' (NAPCOR) 2018 Postconsumer PET Bottle Bale Composition Analysis.
Calorie savings are enormous for people making the switch to water. “Given . . . the fact that roughly 30% of US adults drink one or more servings of SSB [sugar-sweetened beverages]/day, swapping water for SSB could reduce an estimated 3.9 billion calories from U.S. adult diets daily,” Kiyah J. Duffey, PhD, reports in the journal Nutrients. This is particularly relevant as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last month released a peer-reviewed study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that found obesity in the United States is on the rise, and is predicted that by the year 2030, 50 percent of the population will be obese, with one in four people being severely obese. See: (https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsa1909301)
When asked about their general opinion of bottled water as a beverage choice, 84 percent of Americans had a “very positive” or “somewhat positive” opinion of bottled water. Only 16 percent of Americans have a “somewhat” or “very” negative opinion of bottled water as a beverage choice.
Eighty-six percent of Americans say they should drink more water (up 4 percent from last year), and 89 percent believe that bottled water is a healthy and convenient beverage.
IBWA encourages consumers to make healthy hydration a part of their daily lives and pick bottled water as their packaged beverage of choice, whether it’s at home, at the office, or on the go. And remember – always recycled any plastic beverage container.
For more information about bottled water, visit bottledwater.org.
The 2019 survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of International Bottled Water Association from November 12-14, 2019 among 2,071 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, among whom 1,344 are bottled water drinkers (still or sparkling) and 1,205 are soda drinkers. The 2018 survey was conducted online from November 13-15, 2018 among 2,048 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, among whom 1,449 are bottled water drinks (still or sparkling) and 1,209 are soda drinkers. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Jill Culora, 703-647-4609.
The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is the authoritative source of information about all types of bottled waters, including spring, mineral, purified, artesian, and sparkling. Founded in 1958, IBWA's membership includes U.S. and international bottlers, distributors and suppliers. IBWA is committed to working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates bottled water as a packaged food product, to set comprehensive and stringent standards for safe, high-quality bottled water products.
In addition to FDA regulations, IBWA member bottlers must adhere to the IBWA Bottled Water Code of Practice, which mandates additional standards and practices that in some cases are more stringent than federal and state regulations. A key feature of the IBWA Bottled Water Code of Practice is a mandatory annual plant inspection by an independent, third-party organization.
IBWA is proud to be a partner with Keep America Beautiful and a supporter of Drink Up, an initiative of former First Lady Michelle Obama and the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), which encourages Americans to drink more water more often – whether from the tap, a filter, or in a bottle. Choosing water is always the healthy choice.