High demand for bottled water continues to empty supermarket shelves

High demand for bottled water continues to empty supermarket shelves
Credit: Belga

As the groundwater levels in Belgium have reached drastic lows, the amount of bottled water in supermarkets is also decreasing, with the continuing drought and the upcoming heatwave resulting in a massive spike in demand.

Due to the heat, supermarkets in Belgium are currently selling a lot more bottled water than during an average summer – even leading to empty shelves in some stores. Still, this does not automatically mean that there is a supply issue.

"There are always fluctuations in the amount of water coming from the wells, but most producers have buffer reserves to absorb this," Philip Buisseret, Secretary-General at the Belgian Federation of Bottled Water and Soft Drink Producers (FIEB/VIWF), told The Brussels Times.

Additionally, spring and mineral water come from much deeper in the ground, and those underground reserves are less affected by drought than surface waters and groundwater (for tap water).

Supermarkets activating their heat plan

"Therefore, a shortage of spring or mineral water on the market is not very likely," Buisseret said. However, he added that difficult negotiations are currently ongoing about passing on price increases to customers – which could also explain the empty shelves in some supermarkets.

Currently, Delhaize is selling about 40% more bottled water compared to an average summer, and is expecting the demand to rise even more in the coming days. "When warm weather is expected, especially for an extended period like now, our so-called 'heat plan' is activated," Roel Dekelver, spokesperson for Delhaize, told Het Nieuwsblad.

"Then extra volumes of water, ice and summer vegetables are sent to the shops," he added. "But the supply will not be compromised. Although it is possible that a certain product will be sold out in some shops."

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For Colruyt, it was the sudden increase in demand for bottled water that was at the base of the empty shelves in some stores. "We had to adjust our transport plans," said spokesperson Paulien Kurris. "But there is more than enough stock in the shops, there are certainly no shortages."

Discount supermarket chain Aldi also saw a 40% increase in demand for bottled water, which caused some problems in certain branches, spokesperson Jason Sylvester said. "In some shops, certain bottles of drinking water were temporarily unavailable. That is annoying for consumers who want a specific bottle of water, but it is not the case that no water is available at all."

He stressed that the reported shortage in some branches is not due to a lack of stock. "It is not a structural problem, but rather a transport issue. We are currently doing everything we can to solve that and get the water from point A to point B on time."

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