As far as choice goes, there’s never been a better time to be a consumer. Thanks to globalization and connectivity, consumers around the world have access to a wider array of products than ever – a trend that’s likely to continue going forward. And the bevy of choice involves products and services from both multinational and local brands. But even in an era of massive choice, consumers have spoken: water is a top choice and sales continue to see strong growth in Canada across convenience stores.
In step with consumers around the globe, Canadians are actively working to improve their health and make better decisions for their overall wellbeing. Leading a healthy lifestyle is now top of mind for many consumers, but the approaches they take are as individual as the people themselves. One thing that seems to ring true though is consumers are quenching their thirst with water. With more than two-thirds of Canadian consumers (71%) feeling overweight and 54% actively trying to lose weight, finding the right combination of food and beverages is key to a well-balanced diet. While individual plans and strategies differ from consumer to consumer, almost three-quarters (74%) of Canadians are including a very simple choice in their quest: actively trying to drink more water.
As consumers put their money where their health is, water sales across convenience outlets are growing across water categories that include flat water, carbonated water and coconut water. In the most recent year, flat water accounted for nearly $124 million in annual sales across the convenience channel in Canada, up 2% from the previous year. But while flat water may lead the way in total sales, other options are gaining momentum. Sales of carbonated water, for instance, increased 36% in the current year, reaching nearly $16 million. And while newer to the market, coconut water is adding another $3.4 million in sales across convenience channels in Canada.
As Canadians work to keep hydrated, flat water sales are climbing and plain and simple ‘regular water’ led the way with 5% increase in both dollar sales and unit sales, proving once more that when it comes to nutrition consumers are going back to basics and keeping it simple. As simple as the purchase of water may seem, consumers still have to choose among a plethora of water sizes. But it seems consumers are taking on the “go-big or go-home” mentality. Sales of flat water in 500ml – 1L sizes command control with sales exceeding $82 million and dollar growth of 3%.
Renewed interest in carbonated waters is yet another reflection of consumers’ ongoing shift toward opting to make healthier choices, and a testimony to the power of innovation. The carbonated water category taps into several health and wellness trends popular with Canadians today, such as the appeal of a low-carbohydrate and low-calorie option that can potentially be seen as a low-guilt beverage and an offering that is also gluten-free. Beyond the potential health benefits consumers see, these drinks can be refreshing, provide new and exciting flavours and, within the beverage alcohol market, the versatility to shake a cocktail mix draws attention. For carbonated water, innovation is fuelling the growth with more flavours and formats available to Canadians.
While it’s good to know that Canadians endeavour to achieve a healthy overall lifestyle, it’s helpful for retailers and manufacturers across the country to understand why. What’s at the top of their list? As consumers age, preventing future health issues (68%) comes first, followed closely by 63% of consumers who want to look and feel good. As Canadians take charge of their health, increasing their water intake is a way to keep up with their health goals and is also a guilt-free way to stay hydrated and energize the body. Staples like water give manufacturers and retailers an opportunity to partner with consumers in their quests for healthier lives.
Isabel Morales is the manager, consumer insights for Nielsen Canada.