Bottled Water Industry Attacking Tap Water? (We’re Shocked… SHOCKED!)

One of the recurring myths promulgated by the bottled water industry is that it’s not in competition with tap water – that they don’t disparage the quality of tap, and instead sell against sugared drinks.

We’ve rebutted that little contention multiple times on our tiny little blog (Nestle Waters of North America CEO Kim Jeffries did al the heavy lifting for us), but – with the industry reeling under declining sales – the attacks were bound to become more contentious.

A British water bottler recently took out a 20-page magazine advertisement (not a typo, that’s 20 pages) that featured industry scare-mongering at its finest:Bottle vs tap grudge match hots up – Times Online

Yet last month Hildon lost its cool and took a 20-page trade magazine advertisement attacking tap water. On one page under the headline “Is it safe?” it wrote: “Cancer drugs found in tap water”, adding further down: “Is there anything else they are not telling us?”

Some thought is was over the top. Sue Pennison at the Drinking Water Inspectorate described the ad as “scare-mongering”. “If they have concerns, they should bring them to us,” she said.

Hildon’s outburst may have been extreme but it is not isolated – the bottled-water industry is under siege. Environmentalists have been saying for years that the £1.5 billion-a-year business is an eco-catastrophe, creating millions of tonnes of emissions and plastic to contain, transport and sell something that flows freely out of the tap. Phil Woolas, a former environment minister, has labelled it “immoral”.

Nice stuff.

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4 thoughts on “Bottled Water Industry Attacking Tap Water? (We’re Shocked… SHOCKED!)

  1. On page 5 of the report “All Bottled Up – Nestle’s Pursuit of Community Water” by Food and Water Watch, below the heading ‘Florida Fights Back’ is the report that in October 2008, Nestle threatened to sue the Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer Department over radio ads promoting TAP WATER. I guess they’re not in competition so long as nobody espouses drinking tap water.

  2. Nestle’s PR machine certainly makes noise when their bottle features a marginally smaller paper label, but there’s nothing lighthanded about their legal and on-the-ground operatives when it comes to undermining public confidence in tap water – something that happens quite often.

  3. If these water bottlers find the content of tap water objectionable, they might want to stop using it as their primary source.

    It is estimated that 40% of the bottled water sold actually comes from municipal sources, i.e. tap water.

    This whole thing calls to mind the ad campaign employed by Fiji Water a couple years back, in which the company ran an ad saying something like “It says Fiji because it’s not made in Cleveland.”

    Cleveland officials fired back by testing the city’s tap water against Fiji’s bottled water, only to find that Fiji’s bottled water contained a good bit more arsenic per part than the tap did.

    The bottled water industry is foolish to try and fight against tap water using facts, logic or common sense. The industry has grown as a result of superior marketing efforts, not because it is indeed a better option than, say, filtering your tap water and transporting it in reusable containers.

    The industry will indeed diminish once more marketing is devoted to showing the benefits of the tap.

  4. It’s interesting just how often the industry turns to attack marketing – especially when they offer the pretense of doing otherwise.

    The problem for water bottlers is their lifestyle marketing is being undermined by the reality of bottled water (it’s impacts and expense), and we’re exactly one celebrity boycott away from a real plunge in the industry – which would render most of their attempts to build new plants moot.

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