Qualitative research through online community
Haystack conducted the qualitative part of the survey through its online community: an internet platform with some three hundred members, representative for the Belgian population. The members were interviewed and asked for their opinion, in order to get relevant insight into the usage of and attitudes towards tap water. Important findings from the study:
- Tap water is becoming increasingly popular because it’s cheaper and eco-friendlier than bottled water.
- Adults drink it without hesitation, but they don’t use it in baby food.
- Bottled water is becoming more exclusive; most people reserve it for special occasions.
- People feel awkward serving tap water to guests. They either ask for their guests’ approval beforehand, or they serve it in beautifully designed bottles.
- People wonder about the origin of tap water; they form an opinion based on sensory aspects such as smell, taste, look, and hardness.
- Water from ‘green’, rural areas is found purer than that from urban areas.
Quantitative taste test
For the quantitative taste test, three hundred respondents tasted tap water from Antwerp, Hasselt, Bruges, Ghent, Leuven and Brussels:
- Flemish tap water scores high on taste and equals bottled water (compared to Haystack’s extensive database with test results).
- Tap water from Hasselt scores best in terms of taste: 69% of Flemish people give it at least seven out of ten.
- Brussels, Ghent, Bruges and Antwerp follow with similar scores in third place; Leuven has the lowest score: a small minority (27%) prefers this water.
- Men like Antwerp tap water the least; women water from Bruges and Leuven. This difference in preference is not uncommon: women generally have a more acute sense of taste and are more sensitive to small taste differences.
Because ‘ordinary’ consumers find it hard to express their preference for certain flavours, Haystack also submitted the tap waters to a taste test by experts (trained taste panel). The expert panel gave tap water from Hasselt the highest score because of its slightly sweet taste. They gave water from Leuven lower scores because of its somewhat chemical (chlorine-like) aftertaste.
Ludovic Depoortere, CEO at Haystack: “The Flemish use tap water because it is functional and practical, but also increasingly because of its taste, price and environmental benefits. The biggest barrier to drink tap water is the uncertainty about its origin. Consumers believe that the origin influences taste (chemical, chlorine, sweetness, …), visual aspects (cloudy) and smell (chlorine, calcium,…).”
The results of the study are highly relevant for the promotion of tap water. And the differences in perception between men and women are, at the very least, revealing.