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    Natural source waters’ growth a sign of resilience, industry body says

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    The natural source waters category in the UK has grown in both value and volume demonstrating its resilience, despite ongoing supply challenges, the annual UK Water Drinks Conference has heard.

    “Up until the end of February, the category has been performing well, with an increase in volume of 1 per cent and a value increase of 19.7 per cent (Neilsen, 52w/e 25.02.2023). This positive performance from the healthiest option on the soft drinks shelf comes despite a myriad of pressures and shows the crucial role the category has to play in providing a healthy choice to consumers,” Simon Oldham, managing director of Highland Spring Group commented.

    The conference, held in London on March 22, has addressed key issues and recent challenges, as well as looking to the future. Last summer’s challenges which meant producers were unable to meet demand at peak times, CO₂ shortages, and priorities for a successful implementation of deposit return schemes (DRS) across the UK were all discussed, amongst other topics.

    Keynote speaker Henry Dimbleby highlighted the role for water: “If people drank water instead of soft drinks, it would have a huge impact on the obesity crisis.”

    Kinvara Carey, general manager of the trade body Natural Source Waters Association (NSWA), said: “Consumers receive confusing messages when it comes to choosing a healthy drink, as many contain more sugar or calories than perhaps expected. The NSWA and its members are working hard to tackle this and have invested £1.73 million in 2022 on initiatives which promote water as the healthiest option on the soft drinks shelf.”

    The planned introduction of the DRS for Scotland and the rest of the UK formed a major part of the day’s discussions. The NSWA and its members have long supported the introduction of an effective and well-designed DRS and have been working with the Scottish and UK Governments, and many others on their development. NSWA said it supports an all-in DRS, which must be aligned and interoperable across the UK.

    NSWA members, representing approximately 60 per cent of the category volumes, said that they valued the opportunity to come together and discuss the major issues facing the category.

    “It is great to see the category continuing to recover after Covid but last year brought its own challenges with supply chain issues and the long hot summer making it challenging to keep up with the surge in demand,” Carey said.

    “We’ve worked really hard so the category doesn’t face the same issues again this year. The ability to collaborate as members to discuss the key topics, challenges, and opportunities facing our sector particularly around health and sustainability is really valuable.”

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