Huck’s biggest packaged-beverage challenge during the past year was bottled water. It’s the only area that declined in 2020, according to Davis, which follows the national trend for c-stores. IRI data shows bottled water was down 5.4% in dollar sales and 11.1% in unit sales in 2020 compared to a year ago. One reason why bottled water may be down in c-stores is due to pantry loading at the start of the pandemic.

“Water sales tapered off after initial pantry-loading, as many consumers were fully stocked with the shelf-stable beverages,” according to Packaged Facts.

But Overmohle says premium water brands continue to excel at Kum & Go. Smartwater, Essentia and Body Armor all showed double-digit growth for the chain, she says.
Tom Hipwell, vice president of retail sales at Nestle Waters North America, says the company has seen an increase in sparkling water sales, driven in part by consumers’ increased focus on wellness.

“These beverages offer flavorful, low-calorie options. Additionally, we find that people are becoming more familiar with options they previously may not have considered, like bubbles, added vitamins or minerals, and unique flavors,” Hipwell says.

Pack sizes and where people buy their bottled water has also shifted, Hipwell says.

Consumers are opting for case packs of Nestle Pure Life and its regional spring water brands, particularly in 24-packs and 28-packs, to get the best price per ounce, Hipwell says. Nestle Waters also saw a surge in new consumers on its direct-to-consumer beverage delivery service, ReadyRefresh. In March, just as pandemic lockdowns commenced, ReadyRefresh set up 20,000 new residential consumers over a four-day period.