Highland Spring Group and Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I said they have mutually agreed to end their distribution partnership.
After an extensive strategic review, both companies have agreed that ‘now is the right time’ to move in different directions and the seven-year partnership will officially end on 26 February 2023.
As part of the exit, Highland Spring Group has secured a deal with SHS Sales & Marketing who will distribute its natural source water products in the impulse and out of home channels. Under the deal, SHS will take over distribution of the Highland Spring and Hydr8 brands within wholesale, convenience and on-premise channels.
Highland Spring Group will continue to handle the grocery channel and its private label business in-house.
“We would like to thank Suntory for helping develop the Highland Spring brand over the last seven years and the part they have played in enabling us to achieve our position as the UK’s No.1 plain bottled water brand,” Simon Oldham, joint managing director, Highland Spring Group said.
“We look forward to partnering with SHS and continuing to be a trusted and valued partner for our customers.”
Alpesh Mistry, sales director at Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I said: “We have had a wonderful collaboration with Highland Spring Group for a number of years. We exit our relationship on excellent terms and this change will allow us to focus on delivering success for our core brands as well as to further concentrate efforts on our own product innovation initiatives across all retail channels and routes to market.”
John Heynen, managing director at SHS Sales & Marketing, said the transition process is already underway to ensure seamless ongoing management of trade customers ahead of the formal exit date.
“We are delighted to be working in partnership with the Highland Spring Group to distribute Highland Spring and Hydr8. Our highly experienced team is looking forward to continuing SHS’ strong track record of delivering growth for its brand owners and customers with these leading brands in the wholesale, convenience and on-premise channels,” Heynen added.
The bottled water category saw a strong bounce back in 2021, growing to 3.48 billion litres, with total market volumes, following a strong second half of the year, back to near 2019 pre-pandemic levels. Highland Spring brand UK sales volumes grew by 6.3 per cent to 348.6 million litres in 2021, securing a healthy market share of 10 per cent of the total UK plain pack-aged water volumes.