Most senior executives in the industry TOI spoke to said sales volumes are down by 70% compared to pre-Covid months. “Office attendance is currently 10-20%. We don’t see it dramatically going up in the near future,” said Angelo George, CEO of Bisleri International.
Offices account for a large chunk of bottled water consumption in India. “Earlier, we would send truck-loads of our bulk packs to offices. But that segment has shrunk to 10% of our overall business currently,” Ramesh Chauhan, founder of Bisleri, told TOI.
Shuttering of low-end restaurants, sparse traffic on highways and lack of public functions and business-related conferences — that account for major consumption of smaller packs, including the 250ml ones — are other factors that are hurting the industry.
Major players, both regional and global, are reporting dismal numbers. “Who will buy water from outside in these conditions?” said Rakesh Khanna, proprietor of City Cola, one of Delhi NCR’s leading beverage companies. “We are selling less than half of what we used to before the pandemic struck. Even I have started carrying water from home for my meetings.”
While most companies are trying to focus on the at-home segment at present with out-of-home consumption affected, the ever-changing landscape of containment zones has created bottlenecks for smooth delivery of bulk packs.
“While away-from-home consumption in channels like travel, restaurants, entertainment and hospitality may take a little longer to come back to normal, at-home consumption is robust and growing, especially bulk jars in the packaged drinking water segment,” said a spokesperson for Coca-Cola India, which sells the Kinley brand.