The Bottled Water Industry

In Canada, bottled water is regulated as a food by Health Canada. Water bottling companies are inspected by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Permits to take water must be applied for and obtained from provincial environment ministries. Bottling companies continuously test their product to ensure its quality, and CBWA members must adhere to the Association’s stringent Bottled Water Model Code, Bottled Water Food Safety Practices, Certified Plant Operator Program and Third Party Plant Audit requirements, as a condition of membership.


Most of the bottled water produced in Canada is sold in Canada. Bottled water companies range from large multinationals to small and medium sized Canadian-owned companies.


There are two different segments of bottled water markets within the industry:

  • The home and office delivery (HOD) format which consists of primarily returnable polycarbonate containers (up to 18 litres in size); and
  • The single-serve PET bottle format ranging from 250 ml to 3 litres.


The industry’s first bottled water companies started in Toronto and Montreal just after Wolrd War I delivering bottled water to offices and homes.


A number of factors have contributed to the popularity of bottled water. As consumers focus on healthy-eating with a significant emphasis on sufficient hydration, bottled water is seen as a natural product and a vital part of a healthy lifestyle.


Demand has also increased as a result of greater portability and accessibility via convenience stores, gas stations, supermarkets, foodservice and hospitality, and vending machines. The increased consumption of bottled water has moved the product beyond the niche market and into the mainstream as bottled water has become a basic staple for many Canadians.


Bottled water competes with a variety of packaged beverages, including carbonated soft drinks, milk, juices, soya beverages, energy drinks, and sport drinks and to a lesser extent with hot drinks such as coffee, tea and hot chocolate, and low alcohol wine coolers and ciders. However, according to a study conducted in May of 2006 by Probe Research Inc., the majority (70%) of adults who purchase bottled water do so as an alternative to buying other packaged beverages, not as an alternative to tap water.


Quick Facts:


  • The bottled water industry is a net importer of water into the Great Lakes region. According to a 1999 International Joint Commission (IJC) report on bottled water, for every 1 litre of bottled water exported out of the region, there were 9 litres imported into the Great Lakes region. An update from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources states that in 2005m for every 1 litre exported, 14 litres were imported.


  • The bottled water industry in Ontario uses as much water as ten golf courses in Ontario — a province where there are more than 700 golf courses.


  • The Canadian bottled water industry uses just 0.02% of permitted water in Canada compared to the thermal power generation (64%), manufacturing (14%), municipalities (12%), agriculture (9%) and mining (1%). (Source: Environment Canada)


  • The Canadian bottled water industry is an efficient user of its water source. The industry uses only 1.3 litres of water to make 1 litre of bottled water in comparison to other beverage industries which may use several litres of water to make 1 litre of that beverage. (Source: Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada)




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