Superbrands case studies: Highland Spring

Originally published in 'Consumer Superbrands Volume VI', July 2004. The book reviews the UK's strongest consumer brands as judged by an independent judging panel.

Case study provided by Superbrands.


With health conscious consumers increasingly requesting pure, natural products from a known, trusted source, it is little wonder that bottled water consumption is the fastest growing major sector of the soft drinks market.

According to Zenith, the UK bottled water market is now worth £1.2 billion, with more than half the adult population, that is 26 million people (Source: TGI 2003), drinking over two billion litres each year (Source: Zenith 2004).

Bottled water sales are predicted to grow at a rate of 15% in 2004, thereafter 10% over the next five years until 2008 since sales volumes exceeded the two billion litre milestone in 2003, with the market having grown by an astonishing 18% the same year (Source: Zenith 2004).

Consumer preferences have changed significantly over the years from sparkling to still with the latter now accounting for 85% of total bottled water sales. Highland Spring is the number one sparkling and number three still brand and in 2002, sparkling water saw its first growth for two years fuelled by the introduction of Highland Spring's 1.5 litre four-pack (Source: Zenith 2004). The company bottled about 320 million litres of natural mineral water in 2003 and a new bottling line at its Perthshire home has increased production capacity by a third.

Having pioneered bottled water for kids in 2001, this sector is now one of the fastest growing soft drink categories with Highland Spring anticipating growth from ten million to 60 million litres by 2007.

Highland Spring offers retailers a unique product portfolio since it is the only brand in the UK, which offers the most comprehensive selection of products and formats. These are available in both still and sparkling in the flagship glass products as well as smaller 'on the go' sports-bottles, multi-packs (which offer value for money) and single serve portions for kids.


Highland Spring Ltd was formed in 1979 and has grown to reach the position of being the UK's number one produced brand of natural mineral water (Source: Zenith 2004), exporting to more than 50 countries worldwide. The water is drawn from under the Ochil Hills, recognised for its outstanding quality for centuries and established as one of Britain's leading sources of pure natural mineral water.

Nature created the Ochil Hills in Perthshire about 400 million years ago. Layers of red sandstone and basalt formed these ancient hills and are a natural filter for the fresh rainwater, which falls on the heather clad slopes. Rainwater takes as long as fifteen years to reach the source of Highland Spring, deep below these beautiful hills, having collected the minerals which gives the water its specific mineral analysis.

Highland Spring was the first British brand of natural mineral water to come from a registered organic certification catchment area. The site was granted organic status in 2001 by the Soil Association. The company's commitment to protecting the environment was also recognised when Highland Spring became the UK's first natural mineral water to receive accreditation from EMAS (the voluntary EcoManagement and Audit Scheme), which encourages companies to improve their environmental performance. Registered as a natural mineral water in 1982, the company is a founder member of the National Mineral Water Association and Highland Spring is a vigorous supporter of its commitment to educating consumers of the benefits of natural mineral waters compared to other water types.


Highland Spring's Scottish provenance and natural purity are key assets. Indeed a recent NOP survey showed 34% of consumers think that Scotland produces the clearest, purest, bottled water.

Its mineral analysis is also suitable for consumers on a low sodium diet. Not all bottled water brands are natural mineral waters, but Highland Spring achieved this designation in 1985. Recognised as a 'natural mineral water' under EU legislation, this status is only granted to waters with a stable composition, from a protected, identified source and guaranteed safe to drink without treatment.

Highland Spring comes from a protected underground source where no farming, agricultural spraying, building or habitation is permitted within the 2000-acre catchment area, which has been maintained as a conservation area. The land has therefore been kept free from pesticides and pollution for more than two decades.

The product is delivered to supermarket shelves as nature intended. Highland Spring is bottled with nothing added or removed and with a stable mineral content. The only exception is the addition of carbon dioxide, which is used to make the sparkling version.

In 2004 Highland Spring unveiled a new premium brand identity across all its packaging to reinforce the purity and provenance of this fresh Scottish natural mineral water. A new message on the bottles highlights that Highland Spring comes from a protected source and is filtered through land accredited organic by the Soil Association.

The new labels have been designed to make Highland Spring stand out on the increasingly crowded bottled water shelves, along with three new packaging formats to meet changing consumer demands.

Since research shows British children don't drink enough water (Source: Carrick James), Highland Spring will continue to champion healthier drinking for kids, encouraging them to swap fizzy drinks, that contain a large amount of sugar, for the natural water option.


Recognised as a Scottish brand icon, Highland Spring has led the way in a number of ground breaking promotions, launches and sponsorships, while maintaining its reputation as a pure, quality 100% Scottish product.

To this end, the brand is a co-sponsor of Organic Week, run by the Soil Association, which reinforces its organic land status. To mark the company's 25th anniversary celebrations in 2004, Highland Spring has also established a fundraising partnership with Breast Cancer Care, the UK's leading provider of breast cancer information and support. The campaign theme is Pure & Natural to reflect the purity and naturalness of Highland Spring and the pink ribbon features on many of the best-selling products for the first time.

Sport is the key focus of the company's sponsorship strategy. Highland Spring is the Official Mineral Water and the title or associate sponsor for a number of well known sporting teams and events including the Diageo Golf Championship at Gleneagles; the World Snooker Association, with Team Highland Spring boasting players such as Stephen Hendry; the World Bowls Tour and Northampton Saints rugby union team, several of whose players appeared in England's winning World Cup squad in 2003. The brand is also the title sponsor of HIHO, one of the world's greatest windsurfing and sailing events, which takes place in the British Virgin Islands each summer.

Other new activity has seen a broader media presence thanks to an increasing range of consumers, including greater consumption of bottled water by men who now represent 45% of all adult consumers (Source: TGI 2003).

Brand values

The growing awareness of the need to eat and drink healthy products has never been stronger. It is these qualities, of purity, naturalness and unadulterated goodness, which have seen Highland Spring become the number one UK, produced brand of natural mineral water (Source: Zenith 2004), bottled in its natural state from a unique protected source.

And as the value of drinking pure water becomes widely recognised, increasing numbers of people who believe Scottish water is among the finest available are buying increasing amounts of Highland Spring.

© 2004 Superbrands Ltd