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Rise of POU
Rise of POU
What was once considered to be a niche area of the Water Cooler industry, the Point-Of-Use cooler has shown remarkable growth in recent years. In 1999, POU water coolers accounted for 7.8% of the total UK cooler industry, by 2003 this had risen to 13.9% and with a further increase to 16.2% by 2004. This growth continued in 2005 with figures giving POU water coolers approximately 23% of the UK's total watercooler market. As shown in the pie chart below, POU currently makes up an all time high of 27% of the Watercooler market in the UK.

Watercooler Market
Source: Zenith, 2007

From a European perspective there is a similar growth in figures – in 2001 Western Europe POU units held 7% of the total watercooler market, in 2006 this increased to 18% and it is predicted to rise to approximately 27% in 2010.

There have been a number of recent innovations which are believed to have contributed to the increase in uptake of the POU watercoolers. It has previously been felt that one of the main drawbacks of POU was that without a source of spring or purified water that bottled watercoolers benefit from, it was difficult to use a water brand for marketing purposes. Therefore greater emphasis has been placed on the design and features of the cooler itself in recent years – and many POU coolers are now available in a variety of colours, with a range of additions such as digital displays, filtration and purification systems now available.

One of the main drivers of growth of POU coolers has been increased awareness from customers - as more companies become increasingly aware of the plumbed in concept (which can potentially save space and money) they have elected to switch from bottled to POU. Whereas POU watercoolers were at one point considered to be a threat and direct competition to bottled watercoolers – more and more manufacturers have now noticed the unquestionable rise of the POU unit, and accordingly they have included these units in their own portfolio alongside their bottled watercoolers. As a result there are now over 150 companies supplying POU watercoolers in the UK, with many of them offering both POU and bottled coolers simultaneously.

Uptake of POU units has also been assisted by the continued trend of schools to have watercoolers installed, due to the increased awareness of health issues and the exceptionally hot summer of 2003 which forced many schools to pay more attention the provision of water to children. Again here, schools have tended to elect to have POU coolers installed because of their reduced cost and simplified maintenance.

Despite this, the bottled watercooler market has also shown steady growth over recent years, and it still holds a number of advantages over POU units. Firstly there is an issue of installation – point-of-use coolers require more time to install, especially if they are wanted in an area where there is no nearby water mains supply. Secondly, some find that they prefer the taste of purified bottled water as opposed to water from the mains dispensed from POU watercoolers. Bottled watercoolers are also preferred in small to medium offices of 10 or less people where the consumption is fairly low and the issue of having a POU cooler connected to the mains is considered an inconvenience.

In summary, there has been a consistent rise in Point-of-use watercoolers over the past few years, particularly in Western Europe. This has occurred due to a number of factors - increased awareness of their benefits, a wider variety of models and features, and an increase in new customers choosing POU units have all contributed. Although the market for bottled watercoolers remains strong (and still growing), POU coolers are still emerging as a major factor in the watercooler industry.

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