In its 2020 annual report, Zenith Global – world-leading consultants to the food and drink industry – revealed that UK water-dispenser sales had increased for the seventh consecutive year.
At the end of 2019, there were 870,600 units installed in the UK – an increase of more than 100,000 since December 2014. The report shows that 40% (348,240) of the UK’s water dispensers are bottle-fed units, and 60% (522,360) are mains fed. Of the mains-fed units, just under 37% (191,532) are integrated tap systems.
So, what does the future look like for water dispensers?
And what are the main factors driving the growing demand for mains-fed hydration systems?
Many studies have been undertaken to determine the environmental impact of plastic water bottles. Conclusions vary widely, but reasonable averages can be extracted.
In a 2019 UK survey by INCPEN (Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment) and WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), the focus was on “citizens’ attitudes and behaviours relating to food waste, packaging, and plastic packaging”.
More than half of the respondents said they’d become more concerned about food packaging over the past year. Concerns included: impact on oceans and marine life (66%), waste packaging going to landfill (61%), difficulty/impossibility of recycling (58%), and contribution to climate change (41%). Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of, and concerned about, plastic’s detrimental effect on the environment.
A mains-fed integrated tap system can potentially eliminate the use of disposable plastic.
These water systems can dispense upward of 300 cups (the equivalent of 75 litres) of chilled water – still or sparkling – per hour. If that 75 litres of water were packaged in 500ml bottles (i.e. 150 bottles), the total plastic would weigh approximately 1,500g, representing 4,500g of CO2 emissions. The total volume of water consumed during the production and transportation of these 150 bottles would be 225 litres.
According to a 2019 article by Forbes, millennials (or Gen Y) are loyal to companies that care about their effect on society. This generational cohort (people born between 1981 and 2000) make up approximately 50% of today’s workforce, and their values are helping to guide organisations towards sustainable development goals.
“Refillability has become an important feature of the dispense market over the last two years.” (Richard Hall, Chairman and founder of Zenith Global)
In its 2020 Health and Wellbeing at Work survey report, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) revealed that organisations who ran a wellbeing programme were seeing improvement in employee morale and engagement – as well as a drop in sickness absence and increase in staff retention.
There’s certainly evidence that a health-conscious generation of 20-40-year-olds (millennials) is shaping a culture of general wellbeing, which is having a huge impact on corporate productivity. The Millennials and Wellness report by American flavour manufacturer, Fona International, reveals that this generation takes a holistic approach to wellness. The focus has shifted away from fad diets and self-denial towards moderation, appreciation for quality, and care of the whole self, including mental health and hydration.
Regular hydration is one of the most important factors in maintaining physical and cognitive health. Attractive and accessible hydration stations contribute to a healthy workplace culture, where pure water is a natural part of the working day.
The charismatic American microbiologist, Dr Charles Gerba (“Dr Germ”), has helped to open many eyes to the facts of pathogen life. His studies of office hygiene at the University of Arizona have revealed some interesting information, including that frequently quoted statistic: “a desk space can contain 400 times the number of germs as a toilet seat”. The reason for this fact, of course, is that nobody would dream of not cleaning a toilet seat; it takes a little more imagination to recognise the germ potential of a desk.
The bulk of Dr Gerba’s research was conducted before the Coronavirus pandemic, but over the past year, we’ve all become acutely aware of pathogen transmission via shared surfaces, and hygiene has taken on a new significance. Measures adopted in all areas of life to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are possibly here to stay. The global mindset has altered, and technology is supporting our new needs.
Let’s think about making hot drinks in the office by boiling a kettle.
Somebody picks up the kettle (touchpoint: handle)
They fill the kettle from the mains-water tap (touchpoint: tap)
They switch the kettle on (touchpoint: switch)
That same person will probably make drinks for colleagues to avoid an inconvenient crowd around the kettle (touchpoints: mugs/cups)
This process is repeated throughout the day, with several people making contact with touchpoints.
Most of these touchpoints can be avoided with an integrated tap dispense system. Capable of dispensing a portion of constantly available hot, purified water in just a few seconds, Aqua Alto and Aqua illi save time and drastically reduce the need to touch shared surfaces. Aqua Touchless goes that step further, with gesture-control technology that allows users to dispense hot water without touching any shared surface at all.
So, what will hydration in the office look like in the next few years?
Zenith’s report predicts that the UK water dispenser market will continue to expand and that by 2024, there’ll be almost 950,000 installed dispenser units. A key projection in the report is that, in terms of numbers, mains-fed water dispensers will overtake bottle-fed coolers in 2021.
Businesses are seeing the advantages of mains-fed integrated tap systems, which provide safe, economical, easy-to-access hydration. Aqua Libra Co units, which include our own patented twin boiler and Aqua Pure purification system, are housed out of sight in a cupboard no larger than 600mm (w) x 600mm (d) x 900mm (h). A stylish three-in-one tap or a set of individual taps is installed neatly on a worksurface over a flush-fitting, plumbed-to-waste drain.
With the potential to dispense hundreds of cups of boiling, chilled, and carbonated water every hour and to cut out disposable plastic in the workplace, water-dispenser units are becoming an integral part of the workplace. We believe that in five years’ time, at least 50% of all UK workplaces will be using a mains-fed integrated tap system.