‘Plant-based’ is a product claim across food and drink that continues to gain traction, drawing on its obvious natural connotations and an associated air of sustainability. It has become a tag of functionality too, suggestive of added benefits associated with particular botanicals, whether they form the basis of the product or are an added ingredient. Plant claims are now also finding their way into the spring water realm, as exemplified by the upcoming release from Buxton Water, the natural spring water brand based in the Derbyshire Peak District town of Buxton, UK.

Buxton Water, owned by Nestle, announced in August that it is launching a new flavoured water range for the UK called Plant+Water. The product combines the brand’s signature natural mineral water with plant polyphenols extracted from green coffee beans, magnesium and natural fruit and herbal flavours. Available in three versions – Lemon, Lime & Sage, Pomegranate & Basil and Blood Orange & Rosemary – the new line will be going nationwide via selected retailers from September.

Flavoured water, featuring natural fruit flavours and herbal hints, has been ‘a thing’ for a while now. However, taking a traditional and well-known naturally mineral-rich spring water brand and incorporating plant-based functional elements, in particular those derived from coffee beans, is quite a striking move. The Buxton brand historically is intrinsically associated with its origin and natural purity, so taking this step suggests the degree, to which water bottlers can participate in this particular evolving trend.

Consumer views suggest a sound rationale for taking such steps in plant plus water formulations. In GlobalData’s Q3 2019 survey, 60% of UK consumers reported that they believed botanicals or plant extracts have a positive impact on their health. Such added plant content aligns well with the natural claims of spring water, a third of those consumers also described ‘plant-based’ as meaning ‘natural’ to them. Thus, it makes sense for mineral water brands, looking to experiment with additional functionality, to view plant-derived ingredients as a good fit, allowing their products to retain their natural integrity and relative simplicity while offering something new.

While such products are unlikely to supplant core pure mineral water products as the standard for basic hydration and naturally imparted functional benefits, plant and water ally much more effectively than more artificial functional solutions. Given consumers’ awareness, and suspicion of artificial functional health, energy and hydration products, one can expect to see further plant-based innovation in the bottled water category.

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