Has the bottled water market reached saturation point?

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Sodium-free water, deep earth water, Vitamin D-enriched water; calcium high water, weight-inducing water. . . the list of waters being marketed in the UAE is endless. And ever-growing.

And there’s no sign of the market drying up any time soon.

 

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Today, water brands are not simply selling water, they’re selling something more healthy than water; they’re selling a lifestyle.

And the UAE as a country, in particular, is flooded with both local and global brand choices, with an estimated 100 bottled water companies available to consumers today.

So how do you market something as necessary – and everyday – as water? How is one brand better than the other?

Euromonitor’s Senior Analyst, James George, says: “Consumers are creatures of habit and will also look at brands that fit their lifestyle and are congruent with their need, be it health or convenience or a combination thereof.

 

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“Any new product entrant in any nascent space will elicit curiosity in the short term, but goes a long way in keeping the brand ‘fresh’ and ‘top of mind’ in the long haul.”

So, could that explain the recent trickling of new ‘types’ of water onto the market?

 

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Al Ain has recently added to its water offering with its Al Ain Vitamin D water. “It is the only bottled still water in the world of its kind, without any flavours, colours, and preservatives,” read a statement announcing the launch of this brand at the International Water Summit in Abu Dhabi this January.

Talking about his company’s sales strategies for its bottled water business in the UAE and the region, Fasahat Beg, Executive Vice President – Water, Beverages & Dairy Agthia Group, says, “He will continue to innovate, develop and deliver consumer-relevant products particularly in health and wellness white spaces. Al Ain Zero Sodium and Al Ain Vitamin D have already been launched.”

But what is more significant when it comes to smart water marketing in the UAE? Is it the brand’s image? Positioning the product as a sign of wealth? Greater visibility? Or convenience?

“Brand marketing should always work from a foundation of ensuring that competitive superiority should be secured across all aspects of the marketing/commercial/product mix. Strong consumer insights is an absolute necessity and delivering competitively superior initiatives governs everything one does to support the brand, whether it be communication, innovation, packaging, in-store visibility/presence and quality,” Beg adds.

 

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Saturated market

For many, water is water, but, trust and loyalty come into play or consumers when choosing water in the UAE.

“To stand out, an organisation needs to develop an unquestionable level of trust with consumers by consistently delivering on the customer promise of the highest value for money, quality and service,” Reginald Randall, CEO of Masafi, one of the most prominent water brands in the UAE tells GMR.

Randall says, “To clearly differentiate the brand in an increasingly crowded bottled water marketing [scenario], you need to have a real point of difference.”

For Masafi, that difference is the claim that “In the UAE, it is the only leading bottled water from a natural underground water source, which is located in the foothills of the Hajar Mountains,” says Randall.

However, not all water brands are selling with a health pitch. There are still some brands, such as Perrier, Voss and Aqua Gym that reflect a bold look packaged in designer bottles, and market themselves as ‘fashion’ statement or a ‘premium’ product.

 

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Drinking water brands are shifting from selling plain old bottled water. While positioning and convenience is a big part of marketing the brand, it is the brand proposition and messaging that is key.

As George of Euromonitor concludes, “Sales strategies are continuously evolving, but we think the overarching theme is to invest in propagating a consistent brand message. Most drinking water brands in the UAE know where their strong suits lie, be it bulk water sales or retail and know how to leverage their existing products or scale up.”

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