While 2020 was a challenging year for the water dispensing sector, the news of vaccine developments has offered a glimpse that things could return to some (limited) semblance of normality in 2021.
But while Covid-19 was at the forefront of the world’s attention in 2020, the climate crisis has not abated. Sustainability and environmental awareness has been one of the most important trends affecting the water dispensing sector over the last few years, and this has led to the increasing adoption of mains-fed water dispensers as an alternative to bottled water coolers.
This trend has also seen the growth of under-sink solutions. Propelled by the demand for sustainable, practical and versatile dispensing solutions, under-sink solutions have become a fixture in modern hospitality locations such as commercial kitchens, and are gaining traction in the home market and the workplace.
We discussed how environmental consciousness has boosted the adoption of under-sink solutions, and how this will affect the industry moving into 2021 with Freddie Cairns-Palmer, CEO of The WCD Group – a leading distributor of under-sink solutions in the UK.
The Intrix KettleTap can provide filtered boiling and filtered cold water instantly
For readers who are unaware, what are the main benefits of under-sink water solutions? How do they cater to the demand for chilled water/ hydration and hot beverages?
These dispensers are plumbed in which means the supply of mains fed water is continuous, with no heavy plastic water bottles to lift, store and remember to order. Once installed, the provision of chilled and filtered boiling and cold water is constant; apart from regular filter changes and planned servicing to keep the machine in good working order.
In today’s office or retail organisation, it’s a question of sustainable refreshment and space-saving machines in kitchens and refresh areas. The multi-function ‘hot’ taps deliver hot and cold domestic water at the sink as well as filtered, chilled drinking water and boiling water to make hot drinks – so water as you need it from the one appliance. This can save so much time, creating productivity benefits in the workplace for teams, with less downtime away from the desk. Why wait for an old fashioned kettle to boil?
Moving into 2021, what key trends do you think will impact the water dispenser industry beyond Covid-19?
Concerns and care for our planet’s resources will be the key drivers for this market and the desire to achieve a plastic-free planet. The ability to directly affect change and do our bit and cut single-use plastic and refill a reusable cup will gather pace. As we see food retailers pledging to cut single-use plastic in food packaging and offer unpacked refill products, it’s all about sustainability, and we are already working with a number of the large supermarkets on refill solutions instore.
Cafés and restaurants continue to offer to refill your keep-cup with a contactless coffee. Now on Virgin trains, first-class passengers can refill their own hot and cold drinks from dedicated hydration points. This will gather momentum. It’s the #refillrevolution and that is linked to sustainable best practice, where firms will be looking to reduce their carbon footprint.
Hands-free water coolers and hot taps will also become more important as customers look for touch-free devices to prevent spreading germs from hard contact surfaces and provide a Covid-safe workplace environment. We have just introduced the new Marco Friia hot tap to our portfolio which operates with sensor technology.
Interestingly, a long-standing corporate client recently completed an office refurb programme replacing traditional office space with virtual hot-desking where colleagues can come and go in between working from home. While in the office, the refresh areas have become even more important for health and networking, so we have supplied a range of space-saving, compact hydration solutions for refill and reuse; again chilled, hot and sparkling.
Hydration is becoming ever more sophisticated and dare I say, snobbish, with the quest for appliance style and water quality for a discerning, evolving taste led by the European market in some respects. We see this in the bottled sparkling water sector where consumers are wanting a better ‘bubble’. Leading on from this comes flavours to add to the still and sparkling offerings. It will be interesting to see how we can deliver added flavours in a sustainable and healthy way for refill.
I think we must also give a nod to Chilly’s Bottles and how they shaped the market for reusables as we have become a nation that walks the pavements carrying a bottle of flask or cup of some description. Of course, many have now followed their excellent lead and there is much choice. The ability to add your brand to these reusables is a very powerful marketing advantage.
We are partnering with Gloucester Rugby on sustainable hydration and have installed Cosmetal hydration points around the stadium for when crowds return. We also co-branded red Chilly’s bottles for players and staff which look great and will form part of the rugby club’s sustainability strategy.
It will be interesting to see how retailers pull people back to the high street as we re-open the economy and the reusable bottle and coffee cup for contactless drinks at our favourite coffee houses will be key drivers here.
In 2021, working from home will continue to dominate and we know many manufacturers (including Waterlogic, Brita, Zerica, Cosmetal etc.) are looking to provide price/performance hydration equipment for the home office; we see this to be a growing market and one where the multi-function taps will take the lead.
Issue 20 of Refreshment magazine features an in-depth look at 2021 Trends across the water dispenser, vending and office coffee sectors, as well as analysis of the growth of under-sink solutions and our annual round-up of sustainability developments from the industry.
To find out more and start your Refreshment magazine subscription today, head to www.foodbev.com/refreshment/
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