Sector Trend Analysis - Bottled Water in China

February 2017

  • Canadian dollar (CA$)
  • United States dollar (US$)
  • Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR)
  • Harmonized System (HS)
  • Global New Products Database (GNPD)

Executive summary

  • In 2015, China was the largest bottled water market worldwide, with US$16.4 billion worth of retail value sales. China imported US$410.9 million of bottled water in that same year.
  • Three of the top five international bottled water companies in 2014 sold products in China. Danone Groupe was the top-ranked company, followed by the Coca-Cola Co. and Nestlé SA.
  • South Korea, Taiwan, and the United States were the top three suppliers of bottled water to China in 2015. Combined, these three countries held over 49.1% of the total available market share.
  • The Chinese bottled water industry is dominated by still bottled water, which accounted for over 90% of retail values sales in 2014.
  • The increasing consumption of bottled water in China is largely due to poor-quality tap water, growing awareness of the health benefits of bottled water, higher income levels and increasing international tourism.
  • Even though Canada exported over CA$168.8 million worth of bottled water products to the world in 2014, it had a large export gap with China, as most (76.1%) of Canada's bottled water products were shipped to the United States.
  • The National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People's Republic of China (NHFPC) announced in December 2014 that they had extensively modified their standards for packaged bottled drinking water. These standards came into effect on May 24, 2015.

Positioning bottled water in the world

Top 5 bottled water companies worldwide in 2014, US$ billions
Company International Sales Sales in China
1. Danone, Groupe $12.9 $1.7
2. Coca-Cola Co $11.5 $0.74
3. Nestlé SA $10.7 $0.27
4. PepsiCo Inc.. $4.3 N/A
5. Suntory Holdings Ltd. $1.9 N/A
Source: Euromonitor International, 2015
Not applicable (N/A)
Top 10 bottled water markets worldwide in 2015, US$
Country Retail sales
1. China $16.4 billion
2. United States $13.6 billion
3. Mexico $13.2 billion
4. Indonesia $6.5 billion
5. Germany $3.2 billion
6. Japan $2.8 billion
7. France $2.6 billion
8. Brazil $2.6 billion
9. Turkey $2.5 billion
10. Russia $2.5 billion
Source: Mintel Market Sizes, 2016; Global Trade Tracker, 2016
Harmonized System (HS)
Note: For the purposes of this report, "bottled water" was defined using the following HS codes: 2201, 2202
The bottled water market in China in 2015, US$
Indicator Value
Retail sales, 2015 $16.4 billion
Imports of bottled water products from the world $410.9 million
Exports of bottled water products to the world $809.6 million
Dependence on imports 2.5%
Source: Mintel Market Sizes, 2016; Global Trade Tracker, 2016
Harmonized System (HS)
Note: For the purposes of this report, "bottled water" was defined using the following HS codes: 2201, 2202
Top 10 importers of bottled water worldwide 2015, US$ millions
Country Imports US$ Top Suppliers & Market Share #1 Top Suppliers & Market Share #2 Top Suppliers & Market Share #3 Canada's Share
United States $3,429 Switzerland 28.5% Austria 18.3% Mexico 12.0% 3.30%
United Kingdom $1,335 Netherlands 19.0 % Belgium 16.7% Ireland 12.2% 0.04%
Germany $1,105 Austria 34.0% France 9.6% Netherlands 9.3% <0.01%
Belgium $1,068 France 49.2% Netherlands 17.4% Austria 11.8% <0.01%
Canada $942.7 United States 78.0% Switzerland 5.6% Italy 4.2% 100.00%
Hong Kong $842.1 China 78.7% Taiwan 3.3% United States 3.2% <0.01%
France $812.6 Germany 20.5% Belgium 17.7% Italy 14.4% <0.01%
Netherlands $641.9 Germany 34.5% Belgium 27.8% Austria 11.8% <0.01%
Japan $445.6 United States 32.6% France 26.5% Switzerland 22.7% 0.62%
China $410.9 Taiwan 18.5% South Korea 18.2% United States 12.4% 2.11%
Source: Global Trade Tracker, 2016
Harmonized System (HS)
Note: For the purposes of this report, "bottled water" was defined using the following HS codes: 2201, 2202

Although Canada exported over US$132.3 million worth of bottled water products to the world in 2015, the majority (76.1%) went to the United States. China's imports of Canadian bottled water are small, but have been steadily increasing over the last five years: while China imported US$0.74 million dollars of Canadian water in 2011, that number increased to US$7.28 million in 2015. In addition, China's imports of Canada's bottled water have been increasing at a faster pace than their imports from the world, so Canadian exporters can take advantage of this trend.

Bottled water supply gap, 2015 (US$ Millions)
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2011-15 CAGR %
China's imports of bottled water products from the world 130.61 180.21 220.17 283.56 340.21 27.0%
China's imports of bottled water products from Canada 0.74 0.83 4.51 3.13 7.28 77.0%
Supply Gap 129.87 179.38 215.66 280.43 332.93 26.5%
Source: Global Trade Tracker, 2016
Harmonized System (HS)
Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR)
Note: For the purposes of this report, "bottled water" was defined using the following HS codes: 2201, 2202

Economic drivers and consumer attitudes

China is the second-largest economy in the world after the United States, and its economy will continue to grow through 2020, albeit at a slower rate than in previous years. In addition, China has the largest population in the world, and its population will continue to grow over the next few years, reaching over 1.4 billion people by 2020 (Euromonitor International, 2016). As Chinese consumers continue to worry about water safety, the growing economy and population could continue to have a positive effect on bottled water sales in the coming years.

Bottled water is worth US$118.1 billion globally, and the Asia-Pacific region has the highest consumption, accounting for 29.2% of the current worldwide market in 2014. In that same year, China accounted for over half of the total bottled water sales in the Asia-Pacific region, with a total retail sales value of US$18.5 billion. Consumption of bottled water in China increased steadily between 2010 and 2014 as consumers have been drinking bottled water for hygiene and safety reasons (Euromonitor International, 2015).

The major factors affecting the increase in bottled water consumption in China are: poor-quality tap water, increasing health awareness, higher income levels, and international tourism. Together, these factors are fueling demand, and it is probable that as income grows and tourism increases, further growth in demand will follow (chinadialogue, 2014).

Retail environment

According to Datamonitor, unflavoured still bottled water accounted for 91.2% of total bottled water sales in China, in 2014, followed by unflavoured sparkling water (7.0%), and flavoured sparkling water (1.6%). Overall, in 2014, bottled water sales saw an increase of 12.9% over 2013. Sparkling flavoured bottled water experienced the strongest growth from 2010 to 2014 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.5%, while unflavoured still water, the largest subcategory, posted a compound annual growth rate of 13.1% over the same period, reaching value sales of just over US$18.5 billion. This trend is forecasted to continue through 2019 (Datamonitor, 2015).

Historic retail value sales of bottled water subcategories in China, in US$ millions and period growth (%)
Subcategories 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 (Estimate) 2010-15 CAGR %
Still unflavoured 10,053.0 11,545.1 12,965.8 14,568.5 16,448.3 18,479.6 12.95%
Sparkling unflavoured 792.7 911.1 1,011.1 1,130.0 1,260.7 1,397.9 12.01%
Sparkling flavoured 141.1 170.9 205.7 245.4 287.8 334.2 18.82%
Still flavoured 23.4 26.8 29.8 33.4 37.3 41.4 12.09%
Source: Datamonitor, 2015
Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR)
Forecast retail value sales of bottled water subcategories in China, in US$ Millions and period growth (%)
Subcategories 2016 (Forecast) 2017 (Forecast) 2018 (Forecast) 2019 (Forecast) 2016-19 CAGR %
Still unflavoured 20,740.3 23,284.2 26,117.4 29,170.5 12.04%
Sparkling unflavoured 1,544.7 1,703.4 1,874.9 2,057.0 10.02%
Sparkling flavoured 389.3 449.3 515.8 587.2 14.68%
Still flavoured 46.0 51.0 56.5 62.3 10.64%
Source: Datamonitor, 2015
Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR)

The retail volume of bottled water will continue to see steady growth over the next four years, reaching an estimated 44.2 billion litres by 2019. Although sparkling flavoured water forms a small subcategory, it posted the largest compound annual growth rate for all categories from 2010 to 2015, with 18.82% growth, and it is forecasted to experience further double digit growth through 2019, with an estimated compound annual growth rate of 14.68%.

Historic retail volume sales of bottled water subcategories in China, in millions of litres
Subcategories 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 (Estimate) 2010-15 CAGR %
Still unflavoured 21,803.0 23,799.7 25,579.3 27,806.6 29,991.7 31,903.7 7.91%
Sparkling unflavoured 1,484.9 1,619.8 1,759.9 1,924.5 2,082.1 2,234.4 8.52%
Sparkling flavoured 292.0 352.8 424.0 504.9 592.5 688.3 18.71%
Still flavoured 40.3 43.6 46.5 50.0 53.4 56.7 7.07%
Source: Datamonitor, 2015
Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR)
Forecast retail volume sales of bottled water subcategories in China, in millions of litres
Subcategories 2016 (Forecast) 2017 (Forecast) 2018 (Forecast) 2019 (Forecast) 2016-19 CAGR %
Still unflavoured 33,811.6 36,022.3 38,022.1 40,078.4 5.83%
Sparkling unflavoured 2,385.5 2,545.3 2,703.1 2,864.3 6.29%
Sparkling flavoured 801.7 925.7 1,063.3 1,210.8 14.73%
Still flavoured 60.1 63.6 67.3 71.0 5.71%
Source: Datamonitor, 2015
Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR)

Four of the top five bottled water companies in China are domestic players and account for a combined 62.1% of the total market share by volume and 50.4% by retail value, indicating a very concentrated environment. The leading company, Nongfu Spring Ltd., holds slightly more market share than the other three main domestic companies, Tingyi Holdings Ltd., Hangzhou Wahaha Group Co., Ltd. and China Resources Enterprise Ltd. Nongfu Springs saw its market share increase significantly in 2015, jumping from third place by volume (second place by value) to first place by volume and value.

Top 5 bottled water company shares in China – retail sales share by volume % breakdown
Companies 2012 2013 2014 2015
Nongfu Spring Ltd. 11.8 11.7 11.5 20.1
Tingyi Holdings Ltd. 17.8 17.5 17.2 16.9
Hangzhou Wahaha Group Co., Ltd. 16.6 16.3 13.2 14.7
China Resources Enterprise Limited 4.3 4.6 9.6 10.4
The Coca-Cola Company 5.2 4.9 4.9 5.6
Source: Mintel Market Sizes, 2016
Top 5 bottled water company shares in China – retail sales share by value % breakdown
Companies 2012 2013 2014 2015
Nongfu Spring Ltd. 11.6 11.6 11.8 19.2
Tingyi Holdings Ltd. 14.6 14.3 13.6 12.6
Hangzhou Wahaha Group Co., Ltd. 12.6 12.8 10.4 10.6
China Resources Enterprise Limited 4.8 6.1 7.4 8.0
Nestlé SA 4.8 4.3 4.3 4.1
Source: Mintel Market Sizes, 2016

Foodservice environment

China's foodservice industry, such as full-service restaurants and self-serve cafeterias, offer patrons free tap drinking water; however, most patrons frequenting these types of establishments will chose to consume other beverages like juice, tea or alcoholic drinks. Therefore, bottled water companies are distributing their products through cafés and pubs and are mainly targeting high-end consumers (Euromonitor International, 2014).

Standards

The National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People's Republic of China (NHFPC) announced in December 2014 that they had extensively modified their standards for packaged bottled drinking water. The new Hygienic Standards of Packing Drinking Water (GB19298-14) replaced two outdated standards from 2003 (GB19298-2003) and 1998 (Bottled Purified Water: GB17323-1998) and came into effect on May 24, 2015 (Chemical Inspection and Regulation Service, 2015) .The new standard applies to all packaged water products for direct consumption, except natural mineral water products (SGS, 2014). For more information on the new standards, please refer to the article New Hygienic Standard of Packaged Drinking Water from the Chemical Inspection and Regulation Service.

Additionally, a number of bottled water companies in China started introducing lightweight packing in 2013 in response to the government's strategy on energy saving and emission reductions. The result was a package weight reduction from 14g to 12g (Euromonitor International, 2014).

New product launches

According to Mintel (2016), from 2011 to 2015, there were 430 new bottled water (unflavoured and flavoured) products launched in China. Of the 430 launches, 268 were completely new products. Unflavoured water was the most popular type, accounting for 85.6% of all products launched over the five year period. The top three bottle sizes were 500 ml with 83 products launched, and 550 ml and 350 ml, with 73 products launched each. Lemon was the most popular flavour used over the 2011 to 2015 period with 21 products, followed by salt (6) and rose (5). In addition, the most popular flavour group was fruit and vegetable with 46 products, followed by herbs and spices (9) and flora (8).

New product launches of bottle water in China, January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2015 - Yearly product launches
Feature 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Yearly product launches 110 101 66 61 92
Source: Mintel GNPD, 2016.
Note: rankings are based on 2015 data
New product launches of bottle water in China, January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2015 - Launch type
Launch type 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
New product 74 42 41 51 60
New packaging 15 18 8 24 49
New variety/range extension 12 6 12 18 27
Source: Mintel GNPD, 2016.
Note: rankings are based on 2015 data
New product launches of bottle water in China, January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2015 - Top five claims
Top five claims 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Low/No/Reduced Sugar 11 6 7 8 10
Ethical - Environmentally Friendly Package 4 2 7 2 7
No Additives/Preservatives 7 3 5 4 6
Vitamin/Mineral Fortified 10 1 0 9 4
Other (Functional) 8 2 2 5 2
Source: Mintel GNPD, 2016.
Note: rankings are based on 2015 data
New product launches of bottle water in China, January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2015 - Subcategories
Subcategories 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Unflavoured water 81 59 50 73 105
Flavoured water 20 7 11 20 31
Source: Mintel GNPD, 2016.
Note: rankings are based on 2015 data
New product launches of bottle water in China, January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2015 - Top five pack sizes
Top five pack sizes 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
500 ml 19 8 12 21 23
550 ml 18 10 9 15 21
330 ml 6 8 5 8 18
350 ml 26 13 6 15 13
360 ml 6 3 5 8 8
Source: Mintel GNPD, 2016.
Note: rankings are based on 2015 data
New product launches of bottle water in China, January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2015 - Top three prices ($US)
Top three prices ($US) 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
$0.46 4 0 0 5 2
$0.15 4 0 1 3 2
$0.16 2 4 2 0 2
Source: Mintel GNPD, 2016.
Note: rankings are based on 2015 data

New product examples, 2016

  • Natural Drinking Water
    • 5100 Ge Sang Quan Yin Yong Tian Ran Shui (Natural Drinking Water) is sourced from a glacier in Tibet. This product retails in a 550ml pack featuring the Wechat Quick Response (QR) code.
    • Company: Tibet Glacier Mineral Water
    • Brand: 5100 Ge Sang Quan
    • Category: Water
    • Date Published: October 2016
    • Price: US$0.48
    • Pack Size: 550 ml
    • Claims: Social Media
  • Apple Flavoured Soda Water Carbonated Beverage
    • Youdao Soda Ping Guo Wei Su Da Qi Shui (Apple Flavoured Soda Water Carbonated Beverage) has been repackaged. This product now retails in a newly designed 500ml pack featuring the WeChat code, a promotion to win prizes and a QR code.
    • Company: Youdao Jizhi Foods
    • Brand: Youdao Soda
    • Category: Flavoured Water
    • Date Published: September 2016
    • Price: US$0.84
    • Pack Size: 500 ml
    • Claims: Social Media
  • Natural Spring Water with Zinc
    • Dong Ting Shan Zi Yi Tian Ran Quan Shui (Natural Spring Water with Zinc) is quality and safety (QS) certified. This product retails in a 320ml pack.
    • Company: Dong Ting Shan Natural Spring Water
    • Brand: Dong Ting Shan
    • Category: Water
    • Date Published: July 2016
    • Price: US$0.43
    • Pack Size: 320 ml

Source: Mintel GNPD, 2016

Conclusion

China's demand for bottled water will continue to increase over the coming years, and their bottled water market is forecasted to almost double through 2019. Canadian bottled water exports to China have grown significantly over the last five years, although the supply gap is also growing. As such, there are significant opportunities for Canadian bottled water producers to expand in the Chinese market.

China's bottled water market is highly concentrated. National brands control a majority of the volume and value of sales. Nonetheless, international players have established a presence in China: three of the world's top five brands sold their products there in 2014.

For more information

International Trade Commissioners can provide Canadian industry with on-the-ground expertise regarding market potential, current conditions and local business contacts, and are an excellent point of contact for export advice.

For additional intelligence on this and other markets, the complete library of Global Analysis reports can be found under Statistics and Market Information at the following link, arranged by sector and region of interest:

For information on Food and Hospitality China 2016, please contact:

  • Ben Berry, Deputy Director
    Trade Show Strategy and Delivery
    Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
    ben.berry@canada.ca

Resources

  • Chemical Inspection and Regulation Service, 2015, Article: New Hygienic Standard of Packaged Drinking Water,
  • Chinadialogue – article on China's bottled water: the next health crisis?
  • Datamonitor, 2015
  • Euromonitor International, 2016.
  • Euromonitor International, 2014. Bottled Water in China, June 2014
  • Global Trade Tracker, 2016
  • Mintel Global New Product Database (GNDP) 2016
  • Mintel Market Sizes, 2016.
  • SGS (SGS) Consumer Testing Services, Press Release: SGS Informs on China Updating National Labeling and Safety Standards for Packaged Drinking Water

Sector Trend Analysis - Bottled Water in China
Global Analysis Report
© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (2016).

To join our distribution list or to suggest additional report topics or markets, please contact:
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Global Analysis
1341 Baseline Road, Tower 5, 3rd floor
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada, K1A 0C5
E-mail: aafc.mas-sam.aac@canada.ca

The Government of Canada has prepared this report based on primary and secondary sources of information. Although every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) assumes no liability for any actions taken based on the information contained herein.

Reproduction or redistribution of this document, in whole or in part, must include acknowledgement of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada as the owner of the copyright in the document, through a reference citing AAFC, the title of the document and the year. Where the reproduction or redistribution includes data from this document, it must also include an acknowledgement of the specific data source(s), as noted in this document.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada provides this document and other report services to agriculture and food industry clients free of charge

Date modified: