Table water in Nigeria.... Source; Research Gate
Table water in Nigeria.... Source; Research Gate

What is the major factor that you put into consideration when purchasing bottled water to quench your taste? Do you consider your health, brand value, product price or availability of the product in the market? These are the four major factors that drive the growth of the table water market in Nigeria. However, only a few bottled water companies have been able to build their products around them.

The table water market 

While only a few brands have perfected their market presence, the table water market is fragmented, as the market structure doesn’t provide any company with enough influence to move the market in its desired direction. This has enabled the growth of the table water market, which reportedly gulped about N938 billion in 2016.

[READ ALSO: As economy bites, companies use ‘shrinkflation’ to rip off Nigerians]

The market is flourishing because the majority of those who patronise it in Nigeria are youths and adults, especially those in the workforce. This is the case because the cost (per bottle) of the various available brands falls between economy and premium prices fixed at N50 and N100 respectively. 

The economy price is adopted by small and medium table water companies such as Redeemed Water, Immanuel Water, Cascade, and Aquafina. On the other hand, the premium price is common among major companies known for having other standalone products such as Eva Premium Table Water, Bigi Table Water, and Nestle Pure Life. 

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A bottle water factory (Photo Credit: Beverage Daily)

How the market operates 

The table water market is segmented by size into two major categories – 50cl and 75cl. The 50cl size is largely distributed at events, so it is occasionally produced and not commercially circulated. The 75cl, on the other hand, is produced at a commercial scale for public consumption nationwide. Apart from these sizes, two major brands, Eva and Nestle Pure Life, produce the 150cl bottle size which sells for N150.

The entry point 

There is a great demand for drinkable water in Nigeria as Nigerian households lack potable water. With a population of over 100 million adults and youths, it has become a herculean task for just one or even three brands to satisfy consumers’ needs. This reveals why the entry-level of the table water business has a low barrier.

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It also explains why small and medium companies have to take part in the market share despite the strong presence of deep-pocket brands. The market is saturated with community-based brands that could be established with start-up capital of about N5 million. 

Deal book 300 x 250

However, despite SME manufacturers offering their brands for less, a recent consumer survey and research proved that Nigerians would rather purchase a premium brand, specifically Eva Water. This consumer behaviour is not obtainable in other drink segments such as the carbonated market which experienced disruption after the introduction of competitive prices by Bigi and Big Cola. 

Table Water business: Premium brand leads market despite economy price threat
Eva table water… Source; Brand Spur

Survey favours Eva water  

According to the result of a poll conducted by Nairametrics on Twitter, Nigerians prefer Eva water to rehydrate, when compared with other market options. 

Eva Water recorded the most votes in the poll, accounting for 46% of the 597 votes gathered. Nestle Pure Life, however, accounted for 35%, while the demand for Aquafina earned 12%, and another big name, Cascade, polled just 7% of the total votes. 

Why Eva Table Water is preferred by consumers 

Despite the competition from small and medium-sized companies and the economy price that floods the market, Nigerians still favour Eva Table Water over other brands. A research conducted by Euromonitor in 2016 also backed this claim.

[READ FURTHER: It’s time to break Nescafe’s two-decade grip on Nigeria’s coffee market]

Nigerians might have adopted a cost-saving lifestyle to accommodate the rising costs of other essential commodities. However, such is not extended to the table water market. Nairametrics discovered that Nigerians are willing to pay the premium price due to the following factors. 

  • Early bird: Eva Water was one of the first movers in the table water market, with a legacy of over 40 years. The brand, which is manufactured by the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC), has been time-tested, having been around for more than 2 generations, building strong followership within those years. 

One of the advantages of being an early bird in an emerging market is that consumers get accustomed to the brand, while later brands are judged inferior. 

Nigerian Bottling Company Coca Cola NBC, Nairametrics, Eco-friendly bottles, climate change
Coca-Cola; Nigerian Bottling Company Coca Cola NBC (Photo Credit: Guardian Nigeria)
  • The influence of NBC: The drink company has a legacy that Eva Water is riding on to establish itself as a force in the market. The commercial success of other NBC brands has been a major booster for the acceptance of its water brand as Nigerians often apply the adage ‘show me your friends and I will tell you who you are‘ to decide the value of a brand.

NBC products include Coca-Cola, Fanta, Sprite, Schweppes, Limca, Five Alive among many others.

[READ ALSO: How Cable TV could die in Nigeria]

  • Accessibility: The bottled water market is saturated with small and medium-sized companies as earlier stated, and these brands are limited to communities around their factories, but Eva Water is known nationwide, thanks to the vast distribution chain of NBC and its eleven bottling factories. These are the factors that make Eva Table Water available and accessible to consumers.  
  • Health-consciousness: Since many Nigerians are now more healthconscious, the need to stick with a household name that has a proven track record for maintaining quality is vital to consumers. While other competitors also pride themselves as being hygienic, consumers don’t rate them at par with Eva Water because the brand has set a standard that often makes doctors prescribe it to their patients. 
Image result for Nigerian drinking water
A child drinking from the tap (Photo Credit: Daily Family)

Reactions of customers to Eva Water 

Positive reactions 

While speaking to some consumers, Mary Ogidun, an Eva water consumer, told Nairametrics that Eva water’s longevity shows that the company is the best in the market. 

“Eva water has been in the market longer than any of these table water brands, and that shows Eva water is the best; if it’s not, people will not be buying it. Most people prefer Eva water, but because they can’t afford the price, they buy other cheaper ones.”  

While corroborating Ogidun’s claim, Cynthia Okoha said, Despite water being free, you won’t see people drinking just anyhow water because they want to quench their thirst. They would rather buy bottled table water like Eva because of its name and quality.” 

[READ MORE: Nigeria’s decision to sign the AfCFTA might be a grievous mistake…]

Negative reactions

Meanwhile, Temi Toba, had a contrary opinion to those of the previous respondents. He expressed his displeasure over Eva Water’s taste, disclosing that it leaves a bitter taste in his mouth when compared to other options in the market. 

Toba’s statement is, however, understood as Eva Water had recently confirmed that products below standard had been circulated. They were recalled in July 2019 after consumers reportedly filed complaints at NAFDAC. 

This is one of the reasons consumers are wary of community-based manufacturers. If a major brand like Eva could circulate below standard products that reportedly contained particles and had a greenish colour, what’s the quality assurance of the smaller brands? So, Nigerians would rather dine with the devil than the unknown angel.

Eva Water
Eva Water during production

Speaking about Eva being consumers’ choice, a former Manager of a start-up table water company, Jesuwale Steven, was not surprised by the choice of consumers. 

“Eva has proven to be a water of quality, based on its mother company (NBC) which is Coca-Cola. Eva was, therefore, able to win the trust of consumers because the mother company has produced drinks such as Coke, Fanta, Sprite, amongst others. Hence, this gave them that confidence that they will give consumers the best of water and good enough, the customers trusted them. This is why you see that anyone can vouch for Eva.”

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He added that the adoption of Eva by health practitioners had also given the company an edge over other competitors. 

Based on its tested and verified quality, doctors also impose it on their patients especially during typhoid treatment.” 

So, while other market players compete by price to penetrate the customer base, NBC is competing with its brand reputation and deep pocket to position Eva Water as a choice for consumers as the scarcity of drinkable water eludes Nigerian households. The acceptance rate of Eva Water, however, doesn’t suffocate the growth of other companies because when Eva is not available, the lesser-known brands become options.

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