The popularity of foreign bottled water appears to be waning in South Korea, apparently affected by the protracted economic slump, industry data released on Sunday indicated.
According to local retailers, their sales of imported bottled water began to decline last year and have experienced a two-digit fall this year.
Market leader E-Mart said its sales of foreign bottled water sank 9.3 percent in the first half, with the monthly decrease rate standing at 4.8 percent in January, 9.1 percent in March, 4.9 percent in May and 3.6 percent in June.
The retailer, however, said its shipments of low-priced imported sparkling water surged 35.8 percent by July 18 this year.
E-Mart said the economic downturn may have resulted in the decrease in locals' demand for expensive foreign bottled water.
At E-mart, a 500 ml bottle of Evian, a French mineral water brand, sells for 1,150 won (US$1) and the same volume of Canada's Whistler Glacial Water is priced at 1,750 won. By contrast, E-mart's 500-ml "Bongpyeong" mineral water sells for 290 won, while Jeju Island-produced "Samdasu" is priced at 380 won.
E-Mart officials explained that the growing quality of Korean mineral water may have further fanned the decrease in the demand for premium foreign bottled water.
Lotte Mart also said its sales of imported bottled water dived 53.5 percent in the first half of this year, whereas its entire mineral water shipment increased 3 percent. (Yonhap News)