In the booming U.S. sport bottle market, plastic products made with BPA (bisphenol-A) have largely cycled through the system, and the industry is now seeing the initial wave of BPA-free replacements end. This has opened up opportunities for manufacturers to invest in new materials and designs, and to create marketing messages that resonate with shifting consumer needs. The key trend driving the rapid growth of the bottle segment is consumers' heightened interests in ecology and health, not to mention saving money.
This is manifested as a desire to be less wasteful by eschewing single-use plastic bottles, and as a health concern regarding bottle safety and cleanliness.
Then there's a cost saving: As Jon Holland, vice president of sales at Sigg USA, pointed out, "The typical American family spends $400 per year on bottled water." Conservation issues aside, that's a pretty good chunk of change -- especially in the current flagging economy. Holland noted that while consumers might think twice about spending money on a big-ticket item, a small investment in a reusable bottle makes perfect sense. "It is an impulse buy, but it is also functional," he said.
Jon Austin, CamelBak's director of product management, also said he recognized the focus on ecology and saving money, "The focus is now on sustainable hydration. The water bottle is becoming part of an everyday, healthy lifestyle, and we're now seeing second and third purchases from consumers."
In terms of materials, plastic, stainless steel and aluminum are all vying for larger slices of the market, and each has particular advantages.
- Plastic: Generally less expensive than metal, and especially attractive to entry-level consumers and to those with price concerns. Plastic bottles are lightweight and transparent/translucent, making them very user-friendly. Their weight makes them more adaptable to carrying along for activities such as running, fast packing or biking.
- Stainless steel: Heavier and more durable than plastic and aluminum (will not dent as easily as aluminum), and will not take on flavors of a previous beverage. Stainless steel also has insulating properties, meaning that it can be used in various double-wall and vacuum insulation constructions that will eliminate condensation and keep beverages cold or warm without chilling or burning hands.
- Aluminum: Lightweight and recyclable, but not as durable as stainless steel. Also, aluminum is more susceptible to chemicals such as salt. And, for those aluminum bottles whose linings are made with epoxy, there's also a dirty little secret: it most likely contains BPA. According to Dr. John Rost, chairman of the North American Metal Packaging Alliance (www.metal-pack.org), all epoxies worldwide utilize BPA as a monomyer to manufacture the final product. SNEWS® asked Rost if there was any such thing as an epoxy liner, even water-based, that did not contain BPA and he stated unequivocally no. While other coatings are being evaluated as a replacement for epoxy, none yet, he stated, can match the high performance and food safety of an epoxy. Still, Rost asserted that stringent testing by numerous agencies have proven that BPA does not leach from epoxy liners in any quantity that would remotely be deemed as unsafe, with most canned goods (yes, most of the cans on your kitchen shelf are lined with epoxy too) showing BPA migration of less than 10 parts per billion.
It is important to note the children's bottle market is also a burgeoning category -- primarily fueled by parental concerns for safety and convenience -- and for this reason, many vendors already offer, or are now launching, models specifically for kids. Key features include: easy-to-clean designs, spill-proof lids that incorporate simplified and child-safe parts, sizes to fit lunchboxes and smaller hands, and fun colors and graphics.
The following are some company highlights from Outdoor Retailer Winter Market '09:
CamelBak Kids Bottle
CamelBak -- For 2009, the company is offering a complete collection of medical-grade, stainless-steel bottles. An insulated model that integrates Better Bottle cap technology and comes in two etched designs will be available May 1 (MSRP $30). The Better Bottle Stainless (SRP $24) will also launch at retail May 1, and will incorporate sustainable hydration graphics and messages such as, "Choose to reuse," and "When the well is dry, we will know the worth of water." A new kids' line, intended for 3- to 7-year-olds, will be available July 1. The .4-liter/12-ounce bottles will be available in stainless steel (MSRP $20) and BPA-free Triton plastic (MSRP $14) versions. www.camelbak.com
GSI -- GSI Outdoors' new proprietary Infinity BPA-free clear polypropylene will be used throughout the company's 2009 line of table- and cookware including its bottles. The company told us that the new material is 25 percent lighter than Lexan and other polycarbonate resins and is recyclable, chemically resistant, does not absorb taste and odor, will not leach into foods, has a high temperature resistance, and is dishwasher safe. And, unlike other polypropylene bottles on the market, it is clear. (MSRP $9) www.gsioutdoors.com
Laken -- Function and fun are the credo at Laken, a family-owned Spanish company that has been in business since 1904. (Laken USA is based in Bozeman, Mont.) The company specializes in making BPA-free aluminum and stainless steel bottles in its ISO-certified factory in Spain. Laken's stainless-steel bottles undergo limestone tumbling rather than a chemical polishing process that they say helps increase product safety. An extensive Junior collection is also available. www.lakenusa.com
Pacific Cornetta -- The Tualatin, Ore.-based, company's insulated mugs, bottles and accessories are well established in the coffee/tea market, and the brand is now eyeing the sporting goods segment. Pacific Cornetta
GSI Infinity Bottle
launched its 22-ounce stainless steel Cascade water bottle (SRP $17), part of the Liquid Solution line, at Summer Market '08. At Winter Market, the 12-ounce Cascade Jr. bottle (MSRP $15) was rolled out in response to the growing kids' market. Both Cascade models feature single-wall, 18/8 marine-grade stainless-steel construction, as well as BPA-free plastic lids. For March/April '09, the company will offer new patterns and colors, as well as flip-top lids, for the Cascade Jr. www.pacific-cornetta.com
Sigg -- This Swiss company has been making aluminum bottles since 1908. One of Sigg's keys to success is the ability to blend function and fashion, which allows the products to fulfill more than a mere utilitarian need. Each year, Sigg refreshes 140 bottle designs. All can be matched with five interchangeable cap styles, resulting in more than 1,000 possible combinations. At Winter Market, Sigg launched the Steel Works line of stainless-steel bottles that targets younger males and offers industrial looks and colors. www.sigg.com
Sportline -- Catering more to a casual user with a keen interest in aesthetics while retaining function, Sportline introduced a Gel Grip BPA-free bottle. It's got a rather sexy curved shape, like a waistline, so smaller hands can grip it more easily. For extra grip, it's covered with a slightly squishy gel material in a rainbow of bright colors. An MSRP of $12 makes the 18-ouncer an economical bottle, but still one with a flip-top sip top and an integrated carrying ring. The company also showed a Pocket Bottle -- a BPA-free plastic bottle (MSPR $15) with a door on it with a space big enough for an ID or a key, or other small and thin items. Not a new idea but one that may cater to a casual user. www.sportline.com
Stanley -- The iconic brand known for its green thermoses is looking to appeal to a younger generation with its new nineteen13 line, so named after the Stanley company's debut in 1913. Designed for a mobile lifestyle, the line features five products, including two stainless-steel bottles and a BPA-free water bottle (MSRP $10-$24). With wide mouths and easy-to-grab lids, they feature custom graphics -- skulls, wings, lightning bolts, etc. -- designed by Seattle Tattoo artists to commemorate Stanley's heritage. www.stanley-pmi.com
--Judy Leand with Michael Hodgson and Therese Iknoian