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Competition Saturating the Sparkling Water Market

The popularity of sparkling water over the last few years can be attributed to the rise of health consciousness among consumers, as well as the trendiness, refreshing flavor, and availability of these beverages. Due to the decreased sales and consumption of soda in the United States, consumers have turned to a healthier and less sugary alternative: sparkling water. As a result, competitors are saturating the sparkling water market. Market intelligence reveals key insight brands need to stay relevant.

how to perform competitor analysis

LaCroix Sparkles as Millennial ‘Must Have’

Surprisingly, LaCroix Sparkling Water gained popularity in the Midwest before it took off in coastal cities, unlike many emerging trends that start in metropolitan coastal areas and trickle inwards. LaCroix was founded in 1981 and was positioned as a more accessible and relatable brand compared to others in the category, which had more of a fancy and pretentious reputation.

However, it wasn’t until around 2015 when LaCroix gained momentum nationwide. It really became a hit after it was positively reviewed in articles from several sources including The New York Times. Young millennial professionals were particularly likely to hop onto the sparkling water emerging trend. The 90s normcore aesthetic appealed to this crowd, as LaCroix quickly became the talk of the town. It made all the right moves with its marketing efforts with its eye-catching neon colored designs, and by leveraging social media marketing instead of traditional avenues like TV ads.

lacroix-water-instagram-post-showing-sparkling-water-market

LaCroix’s fanbase could be described as a cult following and the drink represented not only something to quench one’s thirst but a fashionable status symbol.

Yet in February of 2018, PepsiCo came out with canned sparkling water called Bubly, and the race was on!

The Sparkling Water Landscape Overflows

Other sparkling water brands grew in popularity as well, including Perrier, Polar, Waterloo, Schweppe’s, Spindrift, and other private labels.

And, in addition to brands creating canned sparkling water options, a few other companies have created a more eco-friendly and sustainable alternative: home sparkling beverage makers.

SodaStream is the biggest brand in the market for this emerging trend. SodaStream was actually founded long ago in 1903, but it really rose in prominence with a new marketing campaign and when it went public in 2010. A search of sparkling water in Quid will reveal the heavy media coverage of SodaStream in the last several years, which will be covered later in this blog.

Analyzing Sparkling Water Consumer & Market Intelligence

The versatility of NetBase Quid data sets allows you to explore a problem or hypothesis from several different angles and then communicate findings via powerful, interactive visualizations.  We can create a broad search of media coverage of sparkling water, or a deep dive into the social media and market data surrounding specific brands like Bubly.

We’ll start with our News/Blogs dataset!

News/Blogs Dataset Reveals Emerging Market Trends

Uncovering emerging trends using the network map in Quid Pro, we see some interesting themes emerge. For example, the release of sparkling water from companies outside of the beverage industry, including candy company Jelly Belly and CBD companies:

emerging-trends-in-sparkling-water-market

Jelly Belly is offering jelly bean-flavored sparkling water, and CBD enthusiasts can now enjoy sparkling water infused with CBD.

Sparkling water is also found in articles covering innovative recipes for cocktails and mocktails, as well as the hard seltzer market, popularized by the brand White Claw.

Searching for more specific terms, we can gather some competitive intelligence by tracking media coverage of the top brands in an industry. For example, we can run searches in the upper right hand corner of some of the top selling sparkling water brands such as Lacroix, Bubly, Perrier, and Polar.

Exploring the Sparkling Water Depths

We’ve organized these mentions by tags below, showing the percentage of articles that mention these brands since early 2018. While LaCroix takes the lead at 15%, Bubly is in close second at 13%. LaCroix and Bubly are also co-mentioned in 3.4% of articles:

selected-conversations-in-the-sparkling-water-market

Articles that co-mention LaCroix, Bubly, and Perrier offers interesting competitive intelligence about these brands and their lookalikes, including: “LaCroix lookalike; Costco launches new Kirkland sparkling water.” As we know, private labels like Costco and Whole Foods have been taking up a portion of the sparkling water market as they offer lookalikes that are usually less expensive and register just fine on the taste test scale.

So, although LaCroix was the first sparkling water brand to skyrocket in popularity years ago, many other brands are now gaining traction – and they’re all benefiting from much more media coverage.

Media Mentions of Sparkling Water Competitors

The bars in this chart below represent the top companies mentioned in our sparkling water search. Sodastream springs forward as the top contender in the space. These ‘sparkling water for the home or office’ makers are wildly popular. Their bestselling product, Fizzi Classic, is an eco-friendly way to enjoy sparkling water without creating as much waste.

sparkling-water-market-on-going-green

Let’s explore how this conversation has shifted in the past five years.

how to perform competitor analysis

Five Year Company Mention Comparison

The first bar chart below shows the top companies mentioned in articles on sparkling water between 2015-2018, and the second, between 2018-2020, colored by clusters.

SodaStream is the top mentioned company during both timeframes, but the media coverage of brands in the canned sparkling water department experienced a significant shift. For example, from 2015-2018, only a small percentage of articles were focused on PepsiCo:

national-beverage-company-share-of-voice

However, there were a great deal of articles around the National Beverage Corp., the parent company of LaCroix. Highlighting National Beverage and Lacroix reveals a list of stories about the brand, sorted by relevance, including “How LaCroix Beat Coke and Pepsi in the Sparking Water Wars.” This speaks to LaCroix’s health conscious and “indie” audience who choose LaCroix because of:

  • The fun neon cans
  • Its coverage by famous fans and the media
  • It not being associated with a well-known corporation

From 2018-2020, Pepsi’s share of voice increased dramatically, due to Pepsi’s release of Bubly in 2018. Exploring top articles about Pepsi, we see a story on Bubly’s Super Bowl commercial starring Michael Bublé. Another article lists Bubly in its top ten, praising its fun and colorful packaging as well as the flavor.

bubly-water-instagram-post

Much like LaCroix’s allure, this shows the importance of paying attention to packaging, as it helps shape consumer perception:

consumer-perception-of-sparkling-water-market

And speaking of consumers, there’s a whole other set of consumer intelligence to explore – and we’ll do that in Quid Social.

Quid Social Sparkling Water Insights

Quid Social offers the ability to pick up on accelerating consumer trends and emerging trends through social media data. And the themes we see in the social media conversation are around sparkling water as a healthy alternative to other beverages. Interestingly, not only are consumers replacing soda with sparking water, but it also has become a replacement for alcoholic beverages as seen in the cluster “Glass of Wine.”

alcoholic-beverage-part-of-sparkling-water-market-conversation

This is a great consumer insight for brands to hone in on when developing marketing campaigns and product launches, showing sparkling water as an alternative to champagne or as a mocktail mixer. There’s definitely a large segment of consumers seeking to reduce their overall alcohol intake to some degree, and this insight helps you understand their reasoning to create more relevant campaigns that resonate with them.

And it’s great timing, as the pandemic has caused a spike in sparkling water interest as consumer seek healthier options.

Sparkling Water Interest Surges

We see a high volume of sparkling water posts in 2018, and another spike in 2020.

timeline-of-sparkling-water-market-posts

A ton of sparkling water brands were introduced to the marked in 2018, which explains the uptick of engagement that year before leveling out again in 2019.

The spike of engagement in 2020 is heavily attributed to the rise in popularity of hard seltzer from brands like White Claw and Truly, offering lower-calorie bubbly drinks that have gone mainstream in the alcoholic beverage department as well.

white-claw-hard-seltzer

But that’s not the full consumer picture – we have complementary psychographic insight to consider as well!

Sparkling Water Psychographics

When researching a particular topic or brand, NetBase Enterprise allows you to really understand what the “buzz” is on social media. Performing a search of Bubly on NetBase uses Natural Language Processing to uncover valuable insights, such as the highest engaged content, emotions, behaviors, names (people and businesses), positive or negative sentiment, and other data, like this consumer who prefers the taste of Bubly to its competitors:

bubly-water-consumer-tweet

This insight helps brands understand the voice of the consumer, captured in real-time and analyzed either in part or in aggregate, to help discern emerging perceptions ahead of competitors.

We can see the attributes, emotions, and behaviors behind social media posts on Bubly, and this reveals an overwhelmingly positive vibe, with words like best and favorite dominating:

consumer-emotions-around-sparkling-water-market

Encouraging User Generated Content with Favorites

Clicking through, we can dive deeper into the data. “Favorite” offers insight around why Bubly is the “favorite” and actionable insights the brand can use to take advantage of this user generated content, including:

  • Consumers sharing precisely how much Bubly they drink each day/week, with someone winning a year-long supply (“I drink so much of it. It’s kind of silly.”)
  • Creative ways to create tiered lists of flavor favorites and/or favorite pairings with foods and such (“I’ve decided to make a tiered list of all the flavors.”)
  • Humorous tests that show what your favorite flavor reveals about you (“Strawberry bubly is my current favorite drink”)
  • Besting competitors, with consumers sharing why they made the switch (“Bubly is my new favorite brand”)

And so much more.

Consumer & Market Intelligence Booming Along with Bubly

All in all, the sparkling water industry is booming and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.

We predict that more alcoholic beverage companies will infuse their signature flavors into sparkling water. Also, much like Jelly Belly and CBD companies, brands completely unrelated to beverages may soon create their own cult-favorite infusions.

Will it be another candy or perhaps regional brands incorporating flavors their areas are known for? Who knows? The data will guide you to make informed strategic decisions about all of it – regardless of category.

The variety of tools that NetBase Quid offers provides predictive, category-defining consumer and market intelligence. There’s a reason the world’s leading brands explore this insight every day! Reach out for a demo and we’ll show you why that is, with a demo tailored to your specific query.

how to perform competitor analysis

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