Monday, February 11, 2008

Mineral water-No longer Green.

Bottled water has been one of the bellwether categories of the “well being” trend which hit the mainstream perhaps 7-8 years back. The “well being” trend was largely seen to be supportive of and in harmony with the “green” trends ( eg organic food- perceived healthier for the individual and more environmental friendly ) .Who would have thought that the “green” wave will soon lash at the shores of “well being ” .

Isn’t it ironic that a product so linked with purity, nature and healthy living is being targeted by the environmental lobbyists. Still bottled water has been one of the fastest growing consumer goods categories over the past 7-8 years , aided by the “well-being” trend , suspicion of tap water quality , strong branding and mass distribution driven by entry of big players like Coke and Pepsi . According to the green party , bottled water now outsells Coke in London . Is this tidal wave in danger of being engulfed by a Tsunami ?

Sample some recent headlines:
San Francisco bans purchase of bottled water by city and county governments “, “Green Party launched a campaign asking Londoners to request tap water in restaurants and pubs” .
The first signs of activism started in Netherlands in 2005 in the form of a brand called NEAU ( translates as NO WATER ) which offered consumers NEAU branded bottles which were empty and could be filled with tap water . Read more about it here .

Meanwhile , water marketers are steaming ahead with new offerings within the bottled water category (fruit flavored water, vitamin enhanced water, mineral water for men , super-premium spring water ) and I can see them continuing to take share of throat from other beverages ( most notably colas and other sugary drinks) .

It is perhaps worthwhile to look at the issues at stake here . Read the SF mayor’s side of the story here and the Bottled water association response here.
I am still mulling which side of the fence I am on .The key issue at stake here is perhaps the Environmental impact /cost of bottled water i.e the incremental energy expended in bottle production , transportation , distribution and recycling ( Note that 93% of bottled water is sold in recyclable plastic , according to an industry website and thus the issue is not of recyclability ) , when one can get almost the same quality ( increasingly in most developed countries) from tap water.

What are your thoughts ? . Is this green terrorism ? Are govt officials playing to the gallery ? Is the industry being unfairly singled out ? Or Is it time the bottled water marketeers stepped back to reconsider and re-orient?