Alexandria, VA – America’s favorite packaged drink – bottled water – reached new peaks in both volume consumed and sales in 2022 in the U.S., new data from the Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC) shows.
Bottled water’s total volume sold in 2022 was 15.9 billion gallons, its highest volume ever, surpassing carbonated soft drinks for the seventh year in a row. In terms of retail dollars, 2022 sales approached $46 billion, up from $40.8 billion in 2021.
“Numerous qualities account for bottled water’s unceasing resonance with U.S. consumers, including its associations with healthfulness, convenience, safety, and value,” says John G. Rodwan, Jr., BMC’s editorial director.
“Consumers’ thirst for beverages that offer benefits beyond refreshment alone also contributed to the fundamental hydrating beverage’s rise in the beverage standings. Bottled water’s zero-calorie status and its lack of artificial ingredients appeal to many consumers. Even where tap water may be safe and readily available, people may prefer bottled water, which they often believe tastes better,” says Rodwan.
For more than a decade, consumers have been increasingly choosing bottled water instead of less-healthy packaged drinks. Bottled water’s volume surpassed soft drinks for the first time in 2016 and has done so every year since.
Americans consumed, on average, 46.5 gallons of bottled water in 2022, compared to 36 gallons of soda. Consumer demand for bottled water has significantly contributed to the industry’s growth (30% since 2012), as people continue to switch from other less-healthy packaged drinks to bottled water. So much so, that nine out of 10 Americans (91%) want bottled water to be available wherever other drinks are sold, according to a survey conducted on behalf of the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) by The Harris Poll.
“People are choosing to drink bottled water because it is a healthy beverage choice, having zero calories and no caffeine or additives, and it has the added benefit of packaging that is 100% recyclable. Not only are bottled water containers 100% recyclable (including the cap) but they also use much less plastic than soda and other packaged beverages,” says Jill Culora, IBWA’s vice president of communications.
Soda containers, on average, use 252% more PET plastic than bottled water containers (22.2 grams vs. 8.8 grams for 16.9-ounce containers). Soft drinks and other sugary beverages need thicker plastic containers due to their carbonation and/or bottling processes.
Even with continuing growth and increased consumption, bottled water still has the smallest impact on the environment—thanks to the fact that it has the smallest water and energy use footprint of any packaged beverage. On average, only 1.39 liters of water (including the 1 liter of water consumed) and 0.21 mega joules of energy are used to produce 1 liter of finished bottled water.
Most bottled water is packaged in 100% recyclable PET #1 plastic and HDPE #2 plastic, which are the plastics most recognized by consumers as being recyclable and the most recycled plastics in the world. Consumers can be confident about recycling bottled water containers because they are among the few consumer packaging types that are universally recyclable across the United States. Not all cities and towns recycle glass bottles and laminated paper cartons, which are most commonly comprised of multiple layers of paper, plastic, and aluminum or wax.
Bottled water’s recyclability distinguishes it from other common plastic products that are truly “single-use,” such as non-recyclable plastic items (e.g., straws, cutlery, and plates); certain food and goods packaging (e.g., film, heat-sealed and multi-layered laminate bags) and containers (e.g., non-PET, HDPE, and PC bottles and tubs). In addition, PET plastic bottled water containers are the most recognized by consumers as being recyclable, which is likely the reason why they are the most recycled containers in U.S. curbside recycling programs. PET plastic bottled water containers are a valuable resource because they can be recycled and used over and over again.
Recycling facilities know that there is a huge industry demand for post-consumer PET and HDPE plastics. Many bottled water companies use recycled PET and HDPE plastic to create new bottles, which helps to reduce their environmental impact further because they aren’t using virgin plastic.
Bottled water drinkers recycle more often than drinkers of other beverages. Of all the PET containers recycled through curbside collections systems, bottled water containers make up approximately 49%. Empty bottled water containers should always be returned or placed in a recycling bin, but when they are not, they make up 3.3% of all drink packaging that ends up in landfills, and only 0.02% of all landfill waste.
Studies have shown that bottled water containers are also not a major source of ocean pollution and microplastics. The vast majority of ocean plastic comes from sources other than the United States. In fact, if the United States were to completely eliminate ALL plastic use, the effort would only result in a 0.25% reduction of ocean plastics, data from Oxford University’s Our World In Data website shows. A striking statistic is that bottled water accounts for less than 1.58% of all plastics used in the United States, which means we are talking about 1.58% of 0.25%.
“Consumer preference for healthy hydration and bottled water is really good news for public health,” says Culora. “This is particularly important as the nation continues to experience high rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.”
“Helping people make healthier choices is at the core of the bottled water business,” says Culora. “Consumers have made it clear that there’s a demand for safe, healthy, and convenient bottled water, as they are responsible for propelling bottled water to the title of America’s most popular packaged beverage, by volume.”
Whether you are at home, in the office, or on the go, IBWA encourages all consumers to make healthy hydration a part of their lifestyle and select bottled water as their beverage of choice and always recycle their empty containers—with the caps on.
For more information about bottled water, visit IBWA’s website: www.bottledwater.org.
The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is the authoritative source of information about all types of bottled waters, including spring, mineral, purified, artesian, and sparkling. Founded in 1958, IBWA’s membership includes U.S. and international bottlers, distributors and suppliers. IBWA is committed to working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates bottled water as a packaged food product, to set comprehensive and stringent standards for safe, high-quality bottled water products.
In addition to FDA regulations, IBWA member bottlers must adhere to the IBWA Bottled Water Code of Practice, which mandates additional standards and practices that in some cases are more stringent than federal and state regulations. A key feature of the IBWA Bottled Water Code of Practice is a mandatory annual plant inspection by an independent, third-party organization.