According to the 2006 Beverage Study by Nielsen Marketing Research, annual sales topped $3.7 billion across 22 categories for the 52 weeks ending Sept. 18, 2006. Dollar sales for the entire beverage category grew by just one per cent at the grocery store level but still, drinks of all types accounted for 12.6 per cent of grocery store sales. Despite the overall sales increase, there were some interesting variations across the country. The Maritimes and Quebec saw increases of four and seven per cent, respectively, whereas Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan actually recorded negative dollar growth. As well, per capita consumption saw a one per cent gain nationally.
Quebec posted a significant eight per cent gain but Ontario dropped by a disappointing four per cent. Flat water, RTD iced tea and carbonated beverages (which include such "new age" products as sparkling flavored waters, all - natural sodas and carbonated fruit drinks) were the fastest growing sectors in terms of both dollar and volume sales. Flat water had a 23 per cent volume increase, while carbonated beverages and RTD iced tea both grew by 15 per cent, according to Nielsen.
Terry Falkenham, senior category manager for Sobeys Inc., says sales of flat water are "constantly going up" and he cites bottled water's consistency of taste and problems with municipal water supplies as reasons for its great demand.
This summer, Dartmouth and other Maritime communities had several "boil orders" (periods where the municipal water supplies became contaminated and all water had to be boiled before drinking), he says, and when people try spring water during these times "a lot of them will not go back to the municipal water they grew up with."
Water sales, whether mineral, carbonated or flavored, are "just huge right now," says John Henderson, merchandising assistant at Thrifty Food Stores based in Saanichton, B.C. "We can't keep up with it in our stores, so we're having to expand our beverage sections to try to get a minimum of another four feet (of shelf space) for it." At Thrifty, margins on water are usually 20 - 25 per cent, he says.
Bill Deschamps, co - owner of a mr. grocer in Lindsay, Ont., put a water distiller in his 20,000 sq. ft. store two years ago and says he sells "about a thousand gallons a week." Ready - to - drink iced tea is another rising star in the beverage aisle. While it accounted for just .2 per cent of beverage dollars in 2006, it is skyrocketing in popularity and becoming a viable alternative to soft drinks and juices. Eleven Food Stores put Lipton iced tea on - tap in B.C. and Southern Alberta for the month of August and "went through the months' supply in ten days," says Jim Humphrey, senior product manager for the 468 - store chain.