Health-conscious Hongkongers turning more to bottled water

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 October, 2004, 12:00am

Increasingly polluted water from the Pearl River Delta and rising health concerns pushed thirsty Hong Kong consumers to guzzle their way through the equivalent of more than 150 Olympic swimming pools of bottled water last year.

Hongkongers bought more than 256 million litres of bottled water from supermarket shelves and restaurants last year, despite the Sars outbreak which slashed consumption at restaurants.

The surge in consumption of bottled water amounts to an increase of more than 23 per cent from the 208 million litres in 1998, according to a report published by consultancy Euromonitor earlier this year.

The sale of bottled water to offices in large-volume dispensers - which usually make up more than 70 per cent of the bottled water market - has also grown.

Figures for offices were not available for last year, but in 2002 more than 556 million litres were delivered to offices around Hong Kong - an increase of nearly 30 per cent since 1998.

Vincent Wan, chairman of Wan (Corporate Services) Limited, which imports Perrier and a number of French mineral water brands into Hong Kong, attributed the popularity of bottled water to an increasingly health-conscious population that has been shying away from soft drinks because of their high sugar content.

Concerns over the quality of water imported from the Pearl River Delta, which has become more polluted as the region becomes increasingly industrialised, also helped to boost sales of bottled water, he added.

'People are getting more knowledgable about water from the PRD,' he said.

'There have been constant reports about the falling water quality there. The natural consequence is that more people are more willing to buy bottled water for their peace of mind if nothing else.'

Hong Kong consumed 974 billion litres of water last year for all purposes, including drinking. Nearly 80 per cent of it, or around 760 billion litres, was bought from Guangdong.

The World Health Organisation recommends an average daily intake of drinking water of 2.2 litres for women and 2.9 litres for men under normal conditions, and 4.5 litres for manual labourers or people working in high temperatures.