Bottled water coolers first appeared in the United States of America almost 100 years ago but it wasn’t until the 1980’s that America saw a huge increase in demand, due to the introduction of plastic bottles – rather than glass. This small change revolutionised the bottled water cooler market which became a worldwide phenomena.
Water coolers have evolved from simply relying on a block of ice for cooling water for Victorian households to highly technical machines that adhere to strict health, sanitation and environmental standards.
By the mid to late 1980’s entrepreneurs in South Africa realised an opportunity to create a water cooler market in the South Africa. The foundation of this industry owes much to the companies who worked hard to encourage businesses to provide water coolers to staff to improve their water intake and healthiness.
Primarily, the water coolers were bottle fed, and the industry was initially driven by the bottled water producing companies. The customers liked the perceived quality of water that was dispensed through the water coolers. Increasingly though the water cooler became an established part of the office and conversations around a water cooler became a part of daily working life.
Most of the suppliers of water coolers in the South Africa also deliver water to their clients on a regular basis. The majority of these companies sell a natural spring water that is bottled at source and delivered to them on a daily basis. However there still remains a section of the industry where the water in the water cooler bottle is filtered mains water. It is worth asking your supplier carefully about what type of water he sells. If he answers with ‘Pure Water’ this is often filtered tap water.
During the 1990’s, again led by America, there was a change in emphasis from bottled water coolers to water coolers that were linked to the mains water supply. The water cooler was integrated with a water filter which filtered the mains water which was then dispensed through the water cooler.
This allowed a new group of companies to emerge and cut out the expensive costs of the bottling process, cost of bottles and the huge cost of delivery. The trend towards mains-fed/bottleless/plumbed-in water coolers is now becoming established in the South Africa.
The market is currently split around 50/50 between mains-fed water coolers and traditional bottled water coolers and this is where we expect it to remain.