There has been a steady trickle of new bottled water products positioned as having functional qualities over the last year, with botanical, herbal and fruit ingredients the most commonly used, according to Mintel's Global New products Database (GNPD).
Danone, the world's largest bottled water producer, was one of the most high profile examples, launching its Volvic Revive, fortified with vitamins and minerals to speed up rehydration after sport, in the UK last year.
The firm has had Danone Activ', water fortified with calcium, on the UK market since 2000. But despite this product's success, gaining five per cent in value and around four per cent in volume after one year, the big players have remained cautious about the functional water sector.
Nestlé Waters, Danone's main rival in bottled water, told www.BeverageDaily.com functional water was "not a big focus at the moment. It is an interesting market but it's still a bit too niche".
Mintel's GNPD database listed 12 bottled water launches across Europe positioned in the functional segment over the last 15 months. Most of these have come from smaller companies, focusing on niche sports, energy and nutraceutical segments.
Among the more unique products was L'eau Bronzante, a bronzing water drink launched by Microfluid Biotechnology in France. The firm claims a 500ml bottle drunk every day for nine days will tan the consumer's skin. The drink contains a range of ingredients, including aloe vera extracts (500mg), vitamin C (52.6mg), concentrated beta carotene (5mg) and lycopene (0.5mg).
The spokesperson for Nestlé Waters said the firm was watching developments with interest but was much more focused on flavoured water. This accounts for less than 5 per cent of the group's sales but shows great potential as a healthy alternative to fizzy colas and sodas, she said.
Its most recent launch was a new orange-lichee drink under the Perrier brand.
The popularity of flavoured water is underlined by the way it has also grafted itself onto the functional sector. Of the three bottled water products launched in Europe in June, one was a general fruit range, one was cranberry and the other was lemon and verbena flavour.
Flavour, of course, is a good way of hiding the strange taste of many functional ingredients, but it is also a good way of adding value to bottled water.
Other functional water products listed on Mintel's GNPD database include:
A new product from French firm Vichy called 'Célestins Plaisirs du Teint Citron-Verveine'. It is sugar-free, aimed at young women, and also claims to increase the skin's hydration rate by about 7 per cent to improve the consumer's appearance.
Idéo Forme mineral water from another French producer named Eaux Minérales de Saint Amand. This product has reduced calories and claims to contain natural ingredients that enhance the feeling of well-being. It comes in grapefruit, kiwi and peach flavours and contains natural hibiscus extract.
Irish firm Shannon Minerals launched its cranberry flavoured spring water in the UK in June, under the Coolwater Trim brand. The product claims to stop the consumer feeling hungry in-between meals and contains sweeteners, preservatives and natural cranberry flavour. A sister product, making similar claims, was launched in Ireland last year.
Datasource: Mintel's Global New Products Database