The demand for bottled drinking water usually rises amid sweltering heat during summer. People quench their thirst with a drink of cold bottled water available in any shop.
But this year, the situation is different and the familiar scene has been changed. Though hot spell is sweeping across the country, the demand for bottled water has decreased.
The manufacturers claim their sales have declined by around 50 percent since April this year than the sales during the same period last year.
Annually, around 35-40 crore litres of bottled water worth Tk850-Tk950 crore are sold across the country, according to the manufacturers of bottled water.
The reason behind the fall in the business is coronavirus pandemic, which has put a curb on all types of official, social and family activities.
People's mobility has lessened a lot. They do not go outside unless it is very necessary. Besides, people now also avoid drinking cold water and food to prevent contracting coronavirus.
Md Nahid Yousuf, an assistant general manager for brand at Partex Beverage, said, "The annual growth of bottled water market is 12 to 15 percent. But the sales of bottled water have decreased by 50 percent since April this year than those during this time last year due to coronavirus pandemic."
Asif Iqbal, deputy managing director of Meghna Group of Industries, told The Business Standard, "People have not been doing regular work for four months. People usually buy bottled drinking water when they go outside for work or any purpose. The sales of bottled water have decreased as people's mobility and activities have reduced now."
Kamruzzaman Kamal, director of marketing at Pran-RFL Group, said, "People usually buy bottled water more or less all through the year. But the coronavirus pandemic is changing people's habit. As people now stay home most of the time, the necessity of buying bottled water has reduced."
On the other hand, retail sellers of bottled water have said people are now avoiding drinking cold water due to coronavirus. Usually the demand for cold bottled drinking water and soft drinks remains high during summer.
But the sales of bottled drinking water had reduced by 75 percent this summer due to the coronavirus, claimed some grocery shop owners.
Abdur Razzak, a shopkeeper in the capital's Rampura area, said, "The most sold items of my shop during hot weather are cold drinks and bottled water. But this summer, the sales have decreased by more than 50 percent if compared to previous years."
Leading manufacturers of bottled water
Bottled water brand Mum of Partex Group has been in the leading position in this business for a long time. It controls 38-40 percent of the market.
Fresh brand of Meghna Group is in the second position. It controls 25 percent of the market.
Kinley of Coca-Cola, Aquafina of PepsiCo and Pran of Pran-RFL come after Mum and Fresh, which are mainly sold in urban areas. Apart from these brands, there are more than 30 brands of bottled water across the country.
Over the last five to six years, PepsiCo has invested a big amount in this sector in Bangladesh. In 2014, Transcom Beverages Ltd brought Aquafina of PepsiCo in the market.
Then in December of 2015, Coca-Cola launched Kinley. Coca-Cola tried to capture the market by selling a half-litre of bottled water at Tk10 instead of Tk15 for several months towards the beginning.
The AGM of Partex Beverage Nahid said some companies were in an unhealthy race to capture the market.
However, Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority's (WASA) has a brand of bottled water named Shanti. But it is not much visible in the market for lack of publicity and production.
How business of bottled water started
The business of bottled water started in the country in 1990, according to the manufactures. That time drinking bottled water was a symbol of elitism. Ordinary people were not interested in it as safe drinking water was available. But over the three decades, the demand for bottled water has increased due to polluted water supplied by Dhaka Wasa, arsenic pollution and lack of safe drinking water.