I needed a number on bottled water consumption for Denmark, but instead I found myself lost in a fascinating new topic (new to me). So, here are some of the fun facts on bottled water consumption – how much bottled water is consumed per capita in different European countries, how that compares to some worldwide numbers, what trends do we see in the last few years, and why? This is not intended to be a serious literature review on the topic, just a starting point for further reading. Just because it sparkled my interest in the topic.
Where and How much
Statistics on the consumption of soft drinks in Europe can be downloaded from the internet site of The Union of European Soft Drinks Associations (UNESDA). I was interested in the numbers for bottled water which are given under “packaged water” (excl. bulk/HOD water). Fig. 1 presents the latest data (2013) for both the consumption in absolute numbers and per capita. According to these numbers, the top two European countries with respect to bottled water consumption are Italy (175.7 L/capita) and Germany (167.9 L/capita). At the other end of the scale are Finland and The Netherlands with respectively 17.9 and 20.8 L/capita.
Denmark is 4th (22.8L/cap) following right after Finland, The Netherlands, and Norway. In absolute numbers, the bottled water consumption in Denmark in 2013 has been 126.6 million litres (or 0.1266 million m3). In comparison, the annual groundwater abstraction for drinking water purposes in Denmark, where the drinking water supply relies entirely on groundwater, amounts to about 400 million m3 (Sørensen & Møller 2013). Thus, bottled water concumption in Denmark is about 0.03% of the total groundwater abstraction for drinking water supply.
From the comprehensive review by Marcussen et al. (2013) can be seen that the annual consumption of bottled water for 2009 ranged between 82 and 234 L/capita for the 20 countries with the highest consumption worldwide. However, the global average is 30 L/capita. According to that review, even though traditionally European countries are leading the bottled water consumption, now Mexico is the country with the highers per capita consumption. Other non-European countries in the top 20 are United Arab emirates, Lebanon, the USA, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Hong Kong.
The bottled water market (consumption per capita) has been steadily growing over the last decades. Reimann & Birke (2010) show the incredible growth of the market in Germany, Hungary, Italy and Sweden from 1950 to 2010 (Fig. 6, page 9). Marcussen et al. (2013) cite figures from Beverage Marketing Corp. on 5.5% worldwide annual growth rate between 2004 and 2009. And I have decided to look into the numbers for some of the European countries (again based on the data from UNESDA). What can be seen from Fig. 2 is the striking fall in the consumption per capita for Greece and Czech Republic since 2009. While, for other countries the market is growing in the last few years (e.g. Poland, Bulgaria, Latvia) and for some others there is a decrease between 2012 and 2013 (Germany and Italy). I didn’t search for analysis of the European market, so I don’t really know if someone has explained these trends already.
I am curious if the decrease in the consumption for Greece is a result of the economical crisis or there is something more to the story? So, let’s move to the more interesting question – Why? What are the reasons for chosing bottled water over tap water? Why the bottled water consumption is increasing worldwide?
First of all, I haven’t done proper review based on extensive literature search on the consumers’ perceptions, but Markussen et al. (2013) have already done amazing job, so I’ll quote them. In their introduction there is a summary on different authors’ speculations on the reasons for the [global] increase of bottled water consumption. Here are the speculations (Markussen et al. 2013):
- Lack of trust in tap water quality
- Beliefs that bottled water has superior health promoting properties and better flavour
- Bottled water is marketed as trendy and a sign of youth
Further Markussen et al. (2013) have discussed the deffinition and regulation of bottled waters, the chemical composition (inorganic and organic constituents), health risks and benefits, and the flavour (especially interesting is “the taste and odor wheel” part), incl. flavour of single salts, complex mixtures of salts, off-flavours. After the extensive review on these topics they focus on the consumer perception.
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″] From this review it is clear that sales of bottled water should not show the observed increase if consumer choices of drinking water are based on rational decisions regarding quality, chemical food safety, costs, and environmental impact[/quote]
Markussen et al. (2013)
I guess this statement is about the general trend of increase in bottled water consumption worldwide. It can be assumed, though, that there will be some local differences. Especially taking into account the cultural and climatic differences. The consumers’ choice could also be affected by the state of the local market itself. Just hypothesizing… Maybe I’ll get back to that topic one day 🙂
- European Commission Directives on mineral water: 80/777/EC, 96/70/EC, 2003/40/EC and 2009/54/EC (Reiman & Birke (2010) have listed also the local regulations for all European countries included in their study on bottled water geochemistry)
- Bottled water can be many different things – natural mineral water, spring water, other bottled water/table water, medicinal water, even tap water. Depending on the type of water different quality criteria should be fulfilled (see Reiman & Birke (2010) as well as Marcussen et al. (2013))
- The increasing bottled water consumption has a considerable environmental impact (Marcussen et al. 2013, see further refferences on LCA of bottled water)
- Potential leaching of Pb, U, Zr, Li, K, Na, and Th from glass bottles and Sb from PET bottles (see Reiman & Birke (2010) as well as Marcussen et al. (2013))
- and many more…
The Union of European Soft Drinks Associations (UNESDA) http://www.unesda.org/industry
Marcussen, H., Holm, P. E. and Hansen, H. Chr.B. (2013), Composition, Flavor, Chemical Foodsafety, and Consumer Preferences of Bottled Water. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 12: 333–352. doi: 10.1111/1541-4337.12015
Sørensen, B.L. & Møller, R.R. (2013), Evaluation of total groundwater abstraction from public waterworks in Denmark using principal component analysis. Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland Bulletin nr.28, p.37-40
Reiman, C. & Birke, M. (Eds.) (2010): Geochemistry of European Bottled Water. 268 p., 28 figs., 6 tab., 2 app., 67 maps, CD-ROM. Borntraeger Science Publishers, Stuttgart. ISBN 978-3-443-01067-6. www.borntraeger-cramer.com/9783443010676
International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) http://www.bottledwater.org/