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E-M:/ you paid how much for that?

Enviro-Mich message from Christy McGillivray <cmcgillivray@cleanwater.org>

Greetings all--

Who doesn't wish we had 10 billion dollars to invest in upgrading our drinking water systems in this country? What would 10 billion dollars fix and provide? You guessed it: lots of aquapods! Nestle's newest marketing scheme aimed directly at children.

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Savvy marketing has raised bottled water to new heights
*Tuesday, October 3, 2006* By BO EMERSON Cox News Service



Atlanta Cod was on the menu at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, and sommelier Chantelle Pabros Grilhot was responsible for choosing the proper beverage to accompany the dish.

She decided on a bottle from Tuscany, with a soft texture and a lean mouth feel.

Later in the meal, a lamb shank with caramelized curry seasoning demanded a different pour altogether, a north Italian sparkler that complemented the intense flavors.

“Sparkling waters go better with meats and heavier dishes,” Grilhot said. “I’ve paired still waters with fish or creamier dishes.”

Water: It’s not just for brushing your teeth.

It sounds like a Penn & Teller routine, but this gourmet water is serious business, decanted with all the solemnity of a cabernet or a pinot noir. The austere Panna was more appropriate for the cod than, say, a mineral-rich rival. “It’s not as fat and heavy on the palate as Evian,” Grilhot said.


High-end bottles costing $35 a pop and gourmet pairings at fancy restaurants are just the latest wave in a rising tide of bottled water merchandising. Recently anointed the second-most popular beverage in the country, ahead of wine, beer, milk, fruit juices, tea and coffee (and far more popular than its lowly cousin from the municipal tap), bottled water has provided a shot in the arm for the beverage industry and a welcome alternative for consumers seeking to limit calories and fulfill that “eight glasses a day” mandate.

Chuck Konfrst, 35, of Peachtree Corners, Ga., is a typical customer. A one-time diet soda drinker, the Web expert checked his waistline a few years ago and decided the low-cal drinks weren’t working.

Now he has a stack of three dozen Berkley & Jensen half-liter bottles taking up space in his cube. “For everyday drinking, it’s water,” he said.

Unlike the H2O connoisseurs at the Ritz, Konfrst cares more about convenience than brand. He could bring in a big cup and use the company’s filtered water, “but I’m too lazy to go to the break room and fill it up every few hours.”

Such thirsty fans swigged 7.5 billion gallons of bottled water last year, pushing the market above $10 billion, according to Gary Hemphill, managing director of the consulting firm Beverage Marketing Corp.


That was just the tonic for an ailing industry, in which sales of soft drinks — still the No. 1 beverage choice in the country — were flat. As a result, bottled water has become a starting point for a variety of products, from fruit-flavored, caffeinated and oxygenated drinks to vitamin-enriched waters for pregnant women.

“They are using water as an innovation platform,” Hemphill said.

Example: Aquaice, a pre-sealed disposable ice tray filled with purified water, one of two “bottled water” ice cube products entering the market.

“When we tell people about it, half say, ‘What a great idea, we knew it was coming,’ and the other half say, ‘You’re crazy, no one will buy it,’ ” said spokesman George Varney.


Determined to push bottled water into new demographics, big companies are distilling products aimed at children. These include fluoridated Spring by Dannon and AquaPod from Nestlé, a globoid plastic container filled with one of Nestlé’s regional brands, such as Deer Park.

The multimillion-dollar marketing campaign includes animated ads on Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and broadcast TV that feature kids triumphing over boring parents with the help of the bulbous bottle.

“The majority of the marketing is focused toward kids,” said Nicole O’Connor, manager of consumer communications for Nestlé Waters.

Karen Bennett of Atlanta, who tested the product for word-of-mouth public relations firm BzzAgent, thought the idea was dumb. “I’m not going to buy water bottles that don’t fit in my cup holders,” was her initial reaction. Then her 10-year-old took to it like a duck to Perrier. “I was surprised by the reactions.”

Consumers aren’t just surfing the bottled water trend; they’re driving it. A pet-friendly Four Seasons promo promises a silver bowl filled with Evian when Fido lodges at the upscale hotel.

Jody Gurin of Atlanta similarly pampers her 9-year-old tabby, Kitty G., providing either Evian or lower-priced Kroger water in his dish. “It’s really important for the pets to be hydrated,” Gurin said, “and I notice when I put the bottled water in they’ll really drink it a lot.”


Not everyone celebrates the plastic bottle. The Natural Resources Defense Council recently completed a four-year study, and resolved that bottled water was no purer than tap.

E/The Environmental Magazine pointed out that 1 billion plastic water bottles end up as litter or in landfills each year and that the demand for recycled PET plastic has yet to match the volume.

Stephen Kay of the International Bottled Water Association asserts that the product’s purity is controlled by the Food and Drug Administration, as is any other packaged food. He adds that water drinkers generally choose between bottled water and some other packaged beverage, and that plastic water bottles are no more likely to turn into litter than soda cans.

As for recycling, Kay points to the five-gallon reusable water cooler bottle as an early contribution to saving the planet. “We consider ourselves among the original recyclers,” he said.

Perhaps, but the humble water cooler doesn’t make as much of a media splash as the $35-a-bottle Bling water encrusted with Swarovski crystals or the $5,000 Evian bath available at the Hotel Victor in Miami. (Tennis star Serena Williams recently dipped into the 350-gallon infinity tub, filled to the brim with Evian Natural Spring Water, and declared it refreshing.)

About such excess, generic water sipper Konfrst had only this dry comment: “If somebody has that kind of money to buy water, they’ve got too much money.”

Christy McGillivray
Lake St. Clair Community Organizer
Clean Water Fund
38875 Harper Clinton Township, MI 48036
Email: cmcgillivray@cleanwater.org
Office: 586.783.8900
Cell: 248.514.9789

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