We are getting to the end of 2019 and it’s time to reflect and contemplate on the big picture of the past and the future. What happened to bottled water consumption in 2019 and what are the big tap water trends 2020? How can we drive behavioural change in bottled water consumption?
Humanity has gotten itself into a pretty big mess with pollution of the air and water, dying animal and plant life and climate change. We are rapidly making planet earth inhabitable for ourselves and other living beings. Some things are hard to fix while others are not.
When starting TAPP Water we took on the mission of tackling bottled water consumption because we thought it would be a relatively easy fix with huge impact. Our idea was simply to provide a better alternative.
Clean water from the tap, saving money, eliminating the need for carrying home heavy bottles and help save the planet. Of course people would buy this?
Well it wasn’t that easy.
The adoption of TAPP filters and our competitors have been slower than expected. In fact bottled water consumption grew by about 5% in Europe in 2019 (7.5% in Spain) despite media and government focus on plastic pollution. Short term we are failing our mission even if our 25,000+ customers have avoided over 20m bottles of plastic so far.
We will have to do a lot better to reach our goal of 10 billion bottles avoided in 5 years. And to do this we need to fuel a change in consumption.
How do we change human behaviour to reduce bottled water consumption?
Changing human behaviour is hard whether it’s the desire for cigarettes, sugar, alcohol, meat, cheap fashion, driving fossil fuel vehicles or bottled water. People don’t change because of logical reasoning (e.g. smoking kills). Generally the influence of education and evidence on behavioural change is overestimated.
The main levers for behavioural change are sociology, psychology and environment. The strongest and potentially easiest of these to impact is social influence (part of sociology). If your neighbour has a new gadget that saves money and effort and makes her look good then you want one too.
This is why we believe that getting the referral and social influence programs right in 2020 is probably the most critical key to success. Our customers have been amazing supporters in the past couple of years but we haven’t always made it easy for you. By making it rewarding and simple for our customers to promote our products and mission, mass market adoption will start.
More education about tap water and plastic pollution?
Another major challenge is the perception of tap water vs bottled water. In most countries the trust in tap water is going down with concerns such as taste, limescale, heavy metals, nitrates and microplastics. The strategy of many of the water filtration companies is to use these concerns to scare people away from tap water. At TAPP we believe this is counterproductive and unethical.
The tap water in Europe and North America is generally as safe as bottled water. The main issues are taste preference and myths about the water. However, there are also risks with both bottled and tap water due to unregulated contaminants such as microplastics and sometimes poor quality control of bottled water. Infants and young children are especially vulnerable to these risks.
But it’s the government and not our responsibility to educate people about the safety of tap water. What we can and should do as a company is to
a) be factual and transparent in our communication
b) lobby for the government to increase efforts to inform and educate
What are the key drinking water trends in 2020?
To be prepared for the future we need to predict what will come next. Here are 6 tap water trends that will impact water consumption and TAPP Water in 2020:
1. More reports on issues / contaminants with bottled water
In the US there were several bottled water recalls in 2019 due to arsenic and other contaminants. So far we have not experienced this in Europe. However, we expect that there will be at least one incident in 2020 due to the increased spotlight on the bottled water industry. Companies like TAPP will be ready to provide a better alternative.
2. Renewed focus by governments in Europe to promote tap water
We’ve already seen tap water being promoted in France, Barcelona and Lisbon. So far the impact has been minimum but we expect these initiatives to be scaled up over the coming year as awareness builds among politicians. Unfortunately safe to drink tap water doesn’t mean that it tastes good though. High quality water filters providing great tasting water make the transition to tap water possible.
3. Bottled water industry will continue to claim the launch of sustainable bottles
In the past couple of months we’ve seen Coca Cola attempt to redefine single use plastics as recyclable and recycled bottles. While the percentage of recycled material used will increase this doesn’t in anyway solve the problems of bottled water including CO2 footprint and plastic pollution. But don’t expect the bottled water companies to give up anytime soon.
4. Human consumption of Microplastics found to cause long term health issues
In the last year WHO published a report on the health impact of microplastics. The report concludes that although there is no immediate proven health risk a lot more research is needed. We expect to see the first results from this research clearly showing negative health impacts of microplastics on humans in 2020. It will be a good reason to stop drinking bottled water, quit eating fish and get a water filter.
5. More high-end water filters launched
560 million households worldwide consume bottled water every week. 90% of these are low to medium income homes. Despite this 80% of the new water filtration products are focused on the 10% with distillation, carbonation, cooling and even added minerals. This includes products like Mitte, oollee, Brita Vovreau, Grohe Blue apure and many more. In 2020 we will see more such products launched by companies such as Nestle, Danone, Coca Cola and Pepsico. The reason is that the perceived level of innovation, media interest and margin is much higher.
But these products don’t solve the bigger issue for the mass market. What’s really needed is affordable and high quality filters that anyone can install.
6. More alternatives to bottled water on the go
The trend of restaurants, bars and cafes serving filtered tap water is finally catching on and spreading. We also expect to start seeing refill stations for filtered water in stores as is already the case in places like South Africa (iDropWater), UK (Blue Water powered filters in Iceland stores) and California (Flowater). This will help build awareness around alternatives to bottled water.
TAPP Water stands ready for 2020
Let’s end on a positive note.
Despite all the challenges in the past year we are a big step closer to our goal. Vastly improved products, better technology, distribution in retail and more countries, clearer messaging and communication and better customer service. We stand ready to help millions of people give up bottled water in 2020 and beyond.
This is thanks to our passionate and hard-working team of TAPPers and our backers. It’s our people, customers and supporters that will make change happen and bring 2020 closer towards our goal of eliminating the need for bottled water!
Thank you for being part of the journey.
P.S. Please contact us for more information about our tap water trends and predictions for 2020.