'This is the end of the beverage category as we knew it'

‘Water is not water anymore’: In a new era of beverages, where does bottled water fit in?

Category blurring: ‘This is the end of the beverage category as we knew it’ Pic:iStock/foto-ruhrgebiet

As the beverage sector continues to evolve, categories are blurring more than ever. Bottled water can either be left on the sidelines as  ‘the boring choice’ – or it can embrace this new era of beverages.  

Bottled water brands should look at creating new moments of consumption, new levels of sophistication, and new ways of interacting with consumers, said Francisco Camacho, executive vice president, Danone Waters.

Camacho was speaking at the Zenith Global Bottled Water Congress in Prague earlier this month.

Beer is not beer anymore; gin is not gin anymore

Other sectors and industries have transformed themselves beyond recognition in recent years, said Camacho.

Take for example sports shoes: once limited to athletes and sports geeks; now a major fashion and lifestyle item.

In the same way, yoga is now far more than a niche exercise for a few devout followers.

“Yoga used to be something for John Lennon,” said Camacho. “What has yoga become today? It’s a mainstream exercise. It’s one of the fastest growing sports and industries over the last ten years. And the fashion behind it is huge.”

Turning to food and beverage, olive oil has undergone a huge transformation.

“Olive oil was just a commodity, it was something you cooked with,” said Camacho. 

“What has it become? Olive oil is not olive oil anymore, it’s a lifestyle. It’s something that people buy and you can’t just have any old olive oil when it comes to having dinner. It can be a very expensive product, it can even be a gift.”

Even olive oil packaging, added Camacho, has transformed the image of the product by taking cues from the wine industry.  

Similar transformations have been seen across beverage categories. Gin is a category that has been opened up to new consumers and become trendy; while craft beer has had a monumental impact on the beer category.  

“To me this is the end of the beverage category as we knew it,” said Camacho. “That category we used to know doesn’t exist anymore. Nothing is what it seems. It’s a mojito – but does it need to have alcohol or not?”

‘We need to recognize that all the lines are blurred’

The bottled water category needs to avoid being side-lined and isolated, and instead recognise that the lines between categories are now blurred, said Camacho.

“In the past, we had water, then we had beer and everyone knew how a beer looked, and coffee, and soda, and teas, and juices.

“Everything was in its own bubble, everyone knew how it looked and what to expect. That’s not the case anymore.”

If water wants to be the predominant category, brands need to recognise that all the lines are blurred and water is not just a commodity: it’s part of a lifestyle.  

“We can’t allow consumers to put us in a corner where we are the boring choice,” said Camacho.

“We need to open up to what we saw from other categories. We need, for water, to become something that people can socialise with, create new habits, new moments of consumption, sophistication.

“So this is not just water: but it’s part of consumers’ lives. It is part of what they are doing and how they are living. So water is not water anymore.”

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