Andreas Exarheas is an editor at FoodBev Media. This is a personal blog and views expressed are his own.
Held on March 19 at the Nottingham Belfry in Nottingham, UK, the BWCA Conference and Trade Show is one of the most important events on the water cooler calendar.
BWCA chairman John Dundon took to the stage to welcome the BWCA delegates and outlined the growing optimism in the water cooler industry. Almost 150 people attended the show, nearly three times the number that was here just a few years ago, and these participants hailed from 14 countries and three continents – a great indicator of the event’s rising popularity.
BWCA chairman John Dundon welcomes delegates to its March conference
Zenith International senior market consultant Amy Lathrop Visser echoed John’s optimism and highlighted encouraging figures to the various audience members. Data from 2014 showed what Amy described as a turning point in the market dynamics. “For the first time, bottled water coolers gained against POU units,” said the Zenith consultant.
The combined POU and BWC market rose in value by 8% compared with 2013, continuing a growth trend reported last year for the first time since 2007. The market is now worth £121m compared with £112m in 2013. The recovering economy, which has seen a number of new start-up companies and improved employment, has buoyed the market and Zenith International predicts that POU and BWC will be “neck-and-neck for the next four to five years”. The market share between the two types of coolers remains stable at the moment, with POU standing at 51% and BWC at 49% of the total in terms of the number of units.
Amy also explained that BWCs are gaining ground in terms of value. In 2012, the total revenue split was POU 29% versus BWC at 71%, shifting to 25% and 75% respectively in 2014. “This is the result of the intense price competition in the POU segment, which has squeezed the overall revenue as well as the profit margins,” said Amy.
Bottled water cooler volume rose by 5% compared with 2013 and revenue growth for bottled water coolers was up 11% compared with 3% growth for POU coolers in 2014. The growth of the POU installed base dropped 1% last year, a slowing of the trend which had been at a rate of 2% in 2013 and 4% in both 2011 and 2012.
POU distribution outlets were revealed in the data, with offices, unsurprisingly, taking nearly two thirds (64%) of the entire POU cooler market. Institutions were the second largest single category with 20% share. Horeca stood at 7% and factories at 6%. The UK is a key market in Europe, as it remains the largest single cooler market in Europe, with a share of 24% of the total. The next largest markets, Italy and France and Spain, have a 17% and 15% share, respectively. Zenith also predicted that the areas that are ripe for further growth are the construction and office sectors.
“The continuing trend towards health and wellbeing, the recovery of the economy, the growth of the start-up business market and currency fluctuations were all contributors to this very positive picture for the industry in 2014,” said Amy Visser. “It seems that bottled water coolers have bounced back and this is a trend we expect to continue. Small and start-up businesses in particular find bottled water coolers a healthy, flexible and convenient choice.”
BWCA chairman John Dundon said: “This is a buoyant market and Zenith’s market intelligence has confirmed what those of us who run and work in cooler businesses have been experiencing. The BWCA is similarly growing, with a number of new members joining in recent weeks and months, and all this contributes not just to market growth but to our interest in making this sector as professional as it can be. BWCA members are rigorously trained and audited for best practice and our members have the edge over others when it comes to offering customers consistent service, hygiene and safety as well as value”.
The key note speaker at this year’s BWCA Conference was Alastair Campbell, who is best known for his role as former prime minister Tony Blair’s spokesman, press secretary and director of communications and strategy.
In a presentation focusing on winners, which forms the title of Alastair’s new book and the theme for the 2015 BWCA Conference, the former political aide emphasised the qualities that make up a winner, highlighting the importance of key traits such as resilience and a hard working attitude. Alastair also stressed the importance of visualising a win, before you carry out your chosen task and urged the BWCA audience to remember a single acronym; OST – objective, strategy, tactics. The headline speaker told participants at the conference to set their objectives, apply their strategy and master their tactics in order to become winners in their field.
Alastair also claimed that great strategies should be able to boil down to a single word (his word for the new labour movement was “modernisation”) and that winning mindsets are most prevalent in sport. Participants were advised to study modern athletes and discover their ways of working, to turn themselves into winners.
BWCA 2015’s Trade Show was packed with a variety of leading water cooler companies and innovative products. A few of the more noteworthy creations included the disposable water bottle cover from 4 Aces, which was designed to promote hydration and wellbeing, according to 4 Aces owner Chris Penn.
This concept is staying away from commercial advertisement opportunities and simply focusing on informing consumers about the benefits of water consumption. Some of the initial messages on the concept packaging include “increases all brain functions”, “helps weight loss” and “improves concentration levels and productivity”. Chris also mentioned that the brand was considering producing a similar product for cup dispenser mechanisms, which would essentially serve the same health promoting purpose.
Another interesting product from the 2015 BWCA Trade Show came in the form of Bericap’s new bi-injected seal for its Valve Lock closure system, which is used in the bottled water cooler industry. This new feature is said to offer “unequalled sealing performances” and “maximum watertightness”. Compatible with a variety of different bottle technologies and neck finishes, the new seal offers “a high hygiene standard”.
AA First also displayed new technology at the show, in the form of its ArcticStar 55 POU dispenser. This machine features mechanical buttons, instead of electric ones, which AA First’s Peter Benson suggested were more reliable. The company’s new ArcticStar machine also contains a light sensor which has the ability to turn off the water cooler at night, resulting in a 25% energy saving.
A range of informative talks took place at BWCA’s Showcase Arena, highlighting a wealth of pertinent water cooler industry topics in the process. One such talk came from Ebac product manager Catherine Chong, who spoke about maximising the life and overall cost of water coolers.
Four main methods for achieving this aim were touched upon during Catherine’s speech: sanitisation, having interchangeable parts, intelligent branding and effective marketing. The Ebac employee suggested that messages to the consumer focusing on hygiene, performance, ease of use and aesthetic quality were vital for manufacturers looking to maximise the life and cost of their coolers, and stated that if brands were confident about their products, customers would be too.
The importance of social media was also referred to during Catherine’s speech. The product manager told the audience that sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are ideal platforms, for small and large businesses alike, to effectively advertise all the positive aspects of their latest inventions. According to Catherine, manufacturers should also not be afraid to provide demonstrations, free trials and brochures.
As Zenith’s Amy Visser highlighted, the numbers for the water cooler industry are heading in the right direction. This year’s event was a hive of activity and John Dundon described the exhibition as the “best show yet”. Based on what the Cooler Plus team saw in Nottingham, it would be hard to argue with him.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020
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