UK’s waterdrop brings sustainable ‘microdrinks’ to the US


Dive Brief:

  • U.K.-based drink startup waterdrop is debuting in the U.S., according to a press release emailed to Food Dive. The company sells “microdrinks” — hydrating compact sugar-free cubes that dissolve in water. It also sells steel, glass and bamboo bottles.
  • Made with fruit and plant-based extracts, the microdrink cubes in the U.S. are in four flavors: Boost (blackcurrant, elderflower and açai), Youth (peach, ginger, ginseng and aloe), Glow (mango, cactus fruit and artichoke) and Zen (starfruit, thyme and lemongrass).
  • The company’s goal is helping consumers increase their water consumption while reducing single-use plastic bottles. About 35.7 billion tons of plastic were created in 2018, according to statistics from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. More than three-quarters of this ended up in landfills. 

Dive Insight:

Bottled water remains one of Americans’ favorite beverages, but increasing scrutiny over packaging waste is causing many to take another look its sustainability impact. Plastic bottles are the third-most common item washing up on beaches, according to the Ocean Conservancy, making them a central focus for increased calls to cut single-use plastics. 

Launched in 2017, waterdrop claims a growth rate of 400% per year with more than 200 million microdrinks sold to date. It also reports serving one million customers throughout Europe through its 15 physical store locations and e-commerce site. Waterdrop estimates it has saved more than 30 million plastic bottles from winding up in landfills through its microdrinks and emphasis on reusable containers. 

Now, it is looking to establish an omnichannel presence in the U.S. market with an e-commerce site and flagship store location in Miami. 

Waterdrop could be a big hit among U.S. consumers, who are showing a big appetite for functional ingredients and clean labels. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, 65% of consumers were searching for ways to achieve greater health and wellness from their diets, according to data from Kerry. The pandemic has fueled consumers’ interest in improving their eating plans with functional foods, too.

It’s not enough for ingredients to offer additional health benefits, however. Consumers are also perusing the ingredients label with greater interest, showing a growing preference for clean label products — without artificial ingredients, including flavors and colors.

Sustainable packaging has become another top priority for consumers, particularly as they evaluate the environmental footprint of their purchasing patterns during the pandemic. As jurisdictions may follow the lead of New York City, which is banning the sale of single-use plastic bottles on city-owned and leased properties, consumers and food manufacturers are eager for new options. 

Beverage makers are experimenting with new ideas, though most of them are not going the same route as Waterdrop, with its dissolvable cubes and reusable bottles. Soda makers Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, both of which have bottled water brands in their portfolio, have piloted interactive water coolers that dispense custom flavor combinations into personal drinking bottles. PepsiCo acquired SodaStream in 2018 for consumers to create at-home carbonated water in personal containers.

Other brands targeting sustainable packaging in the water segment include JUST Water, Boxed Water is Better, Icebox Water and RETHINK Water. Each of these use some form of paper-based cartons, which are overall more sustainable, instead of plastic. Other manufacturers are putting water in aluminum cans and bottles, which consumers may be more likely to recycle. And Coca-Cola is rolling out plastic bottles made from 100% recycled material that will be used for both soda and water brands.