Tag Archives: natural hydration council

Bottled Water Industry Vilifying Tap Water In Attempt to Bolster Sagging Sales

“Good corporate citizen” Nestle never passes up an opportunity to spin its “good neighbor” message to the world, but according t0 a memo obtained by the UK Scotsman, Nestle’s part of a campaign attempting to vilify the quality of tap water.

The Scotsman obtained a 3-page memo written by a PR firm working for the Natural Hydration Council (the UK’s bottled water industry trade group that’s the equivalent of North America’s IBWA).

Nestle is a leading player in the group, and we’ll let the Scotsman’s reporter lay out the ugly details:

AIDES working for bottled water producers are planning to use scare tactics to protect falling sales in Scotland by attacking the quality of tap water supplied to consumers.

The tactics are outlined in a memorandum drawn up by a public relations company employed by the industry to be used in case “the media turns hostile to our cause”.

It suggests using data on contamination of public water supplies with potentially-harmful bugs, such as E Coli and cryptosporidium, to highlight the merits of drinking bottled water. Sales of bottled water have fallen nationally over the last year because of the effects of the recession on disposable incomes.

The memo, obtained by Scotland on Sunday, was written by a London PR company working for the Natural Hydration Council, an industry lobby group funded by three major bottled water companies. They include Nestlé, which markets Vittel and Perrier; Danone, which produces Volvic and Evian; and Perthshire-based Highland Spring.

The Scotsman quoted several passages in the memo which clearly indicate the PR firms plan to attack the quality of bottled water should media coverage turn “hostile” – but later the writer of the memo contradicts what he wrote.

It was sent to an Edinburgh-based communications company, 3X1 – which is paid by the industry to lobby on its behalf – to be deployed on the same day as the annual publication of Scotland’s Drinking Water Quality Regulator, last Thursday.

The regulator’s report concluded that the quality of Scottish drinking water remains “extremely high” with 99.75 per cent of supplies meeting safety standards. It adds that two tap samples in Scotland contained E Coli in 2008, an improvement on 2007 when five failures were recorded.

[ed: emphasis mine] This prompted Julie McGarvey, of 3X1 to write to her colleague James Laird, at Epicurus Communications in London: “Clock the E Coli data. Good to keep up our sleeve.”

Laird wrote back that he had already written a memo, based on an analysis of reports by the Drinking Water Inspectorate in England, that had “observations” that might be useful “should the media turn hostile towards our cause.”

He adds that the report offers “potential sound-bite notes that could be used for NHC un-attributable media briefings.” “Unattributable briefings” is lobby group shorthand for information passed to journalists on condition they do not name their source.

After reading the last paragraph above, now read the astonishing denial by the consultant who wrote the quoted memo:

Asked whether the examples of problems in the public water supply would be communicated to journalists, he replied: “Absolutely not. The NHC supports the consumption of all water, whether bottled or tap. There is no intent, desire or mandate to criticise tap water on behalf of the NHC.”

One word leaps to mind.

Sleazy.

Earlier, we chronicled the attacks launched on tap water quality by none other than Nestle Waters CEO Kim Jeffries and another UK bottler.

And even journalist and author Elizabeth Royte thinks its time to end the charade:

The bottled water industry continues to claim it competes not with tap water but with high-calorie and other processed drinks. The argument is getting a little tired.

And yes, one reason industries form trade groups like the Natural Hydration Council or North America’s International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is so water bottlers don’t have to get their hands dirty.

They simply pay others to do their dirty work for them.

We’ve noted in the past that the bottled water industry – facing tough economic conditions and opposition on environmental grounds – will increasingly turn to FUD tactics (Fearn, Uncertainty, Doubt) to drive sales.

In this case, the evidence fell into the right hands, but how much of this kind of thing is currently being planned behind closed doors elsewhere?

Why else would the IBWA hire former Tobacco Institute spokesperson Tom Lauria?

In the light of stories like this, it’s clear.

The real “product” of the Tobacco Institute was “doubt” – an ongoing effort to undermine good science detailing the hazards of smoking, confusing consumers and providing cover for the industry.

Expect to see more “doubt” sown by the bottled water industry about the quality of the water that comes out of your tap.

And when you do, recognize it for what it is.

via Bottled water firms turn to scare tactics – Scotsman.com News.

Bottled Water Sales in Europe Take Big Hit – Precursor to What’s Coming in US?

In Europe, the bottled water market has taken a serious pummelling, and industry leaders set up the “Natural Hydration Council” to try promote their products – often at the expense of soft drinks.

So far, the NHC has been more talking point than successful venture; in 2008, sales of water fell dramatically (via Marketing Magazine UK):

The NHC was set up by Nestle Waters, Danone Waters and Highland Spring last September to protect the declining bottled-water sector.

Last year sales fell by 9%, with Danone’s Evian and Volvic posting drops of 7% and 13% respectively. Nestle Waters’ Vittel recorded a 55% fall in sales, according to Nielsen.

What happens to those rural jobs when sales decline in similar fashion here?

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Bottled Water Industry, Nestle Launching New Bottled Water Offensive in UK

We’re tracking the bottled water industry and its attempts to revive its flagging fortunes. Sales have been battered by a bad economy and a rising tide of assaults on the bottled water market, and with profits at risk, we all knew the bottled water industry (and Nestle in particular) would get motivated.

That’s the subject of our next e-newsletter (sign up today!), but in this post, we’re looking at what’s happening in Europe – specifically the UK.

We found a brilliantly written piece about the bottled water industry in the Independent – a piece which just gets better and better as it unfolds. Here are a few excerpts, though the whole thing is worth a read:

Now, though, bottled water is in danger of being a has-been. After three decades of constant growth which saw sales rise by a factor of 100, from 20m litres a year in 1976 to 2,000m litres in 2006, the rise and fall of the sales chart is starting to resemble one of the mountains pictured in the advertising. Unless the slide is halted, bottled water will become history, a consumer fad that couldn’t live up to the hype. Unlikely, certainly, but the industry is spooked.

Mineral water is being assailed on all sides. Two years of extremely cloudy summers have hit demand; and now, the collapsing economy is causing consumers to question whether they need to spend £1 or £2 on something they can get for a fraction of the price at home. Most vexingly to its multinational cheerleaders, bottled water has become a symbol of environmental lunacy. How can one defend a product that is trucked hundreds or thousands of miles in plastic bottles when it gushes out of taps almost free? The Government has announced that it is banning mineral water from civil service meetings. Consumer groups call on diners to ask for tap – and millions are doing so. Mineral water is no longer cool; it’s dumb, bought by gullible clothes-horses who care more about their skin than the planet.

For two years the executives of the £2bn-a-year bottled water industry have sat tight, hoping things would improve, silently fuming as their product’s reputation dripped away. Now, they are striking back. Britain’s three biggest bottled-water companies, the Swiss food giant Nestlé, the French dairy corporation Danone and Highland Spring have founded a lobby group to restore its reputation. The trio met in Cambridge earlier this month to hatch a plan to restore mineral water to its rightful place in the public’s affections.

So far, it’s about what you expect. And sadly, so is the next paragraph:

In months to come, there will be lobbying from the Natural Hydration Council and a massive advertising campaign that will seek to re-educate the public about the benefits of bottled water. And it will get dirty. The bottled water camp is throwing mud at the tap water companies, with talk of chlorine, septic tanks, contamination and irresponsible leakage. The companies are fighting for their lives. And they complain about dark forces doing down their transparent, beautiful product. How did water get this murky? And should we be buying San Pellegrino or Badoit – or not?

What, exactly, does the writer mean about “it will get dirty”? This, apparently:

Danone’s solution to this is to tell the public that tap and bottled are not the same, even if they look the same. In his presentation to fellow industry members in Cambridge, Mr Krzyzaniak shows a picture of two identical looking glasses of water. “But are all waters created equal?” his presentation asks. “NO!” screams the graphic. There are pictures of the production of bottled and tap water. Bottled water drifts down from clouds over mountains, percolates through rocks and ends up in clear bottles. Tap water comes from groundwater, risking “contamination” from pesticides and fertilisers and a grey blot in the ground marked “septic tank”. A dissected water pipe shows it is all furred up inside, like an old kettle.

And this;

Almost three-quarters of British people (72 per cent) believe that tap water is of good quality and only 9 per cent believe that it’s bad quality. With good reason – the Drinking Water Inspectorate says that 99.96 per cent of UK water meets EU standards, unlike many parts of the developing world where drinking water is highly dangerous.

But these figures do not impress the bottled water industry: “99.96 per cent of your water being good enough is not good enough – 100 per cent of our water has to be good enough, because that 0.4 per cent, that fraction there, is not good enough. That should be challenged more,” says Montgomery.

A key issue here is “consistency”, adds Krzyzaniak. “Tap water changes from glass to glass,” he says, explaining that chlorine wears out over time, meaning that the quality can vary depending on how long it has been sitting in the pipe. “And it also depends on the source, depending on where you picked up along the Thames. Could you be near a treatment centre, could you be near a highly agricultural centre, could you be near a waste treatment centre?

It’s this level of fearmongering we can expect to eventually see here in North America; bottled water executives will conveniently forget the Environmental Working Group tests which showed that two of ten national brands of bottled water had illegal levels of contaminants (and all featured something that didn’t belong).

It’s clear that bottled water is not standing on the sidelines any longer, and the question is no longer “when” but “how to counter them once their considerable PR and marketing might is applied to the issue.”

Can Nestle Be Trusted – Even By Its Own Partners?

Nestle UK Accused of Throwing Smaller Industry Brands Under the Bus

A recently formed bottled water alliance in the United Kingdom has angered smaller water bottlers and other beverage producers, who say Nestle, Danone and Highland Spring (the three biggest brands in the UK) formed the new alliance to protect their interests at the expense of others’:

LONDON – Nestle Waters, Danone Waters and Highland Spring stand accused of breaking ranks with the soft-drinks industry for launching the Natural Hydration Council (NHC).

The NHC has been created to research and promote the environmental and health benefits of bottled water, and its three founders have control of the most prominent bottled-water brands in the UK: Nestle owns Buxton and Vittel, while Danone owns Volvic and Evian.
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One soft-drinks insider poured scorn on the move to create a separate organisation to the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA)’s Bottled Water Information Office. The latter was disbanded after the formation of the NHC.

‘They can hardly claim to offer an industry-wide perspective, even if they are the largest individual players,’ said the insider.

I suspect the “Natural Hydration Council” was formed so that its members could mount attacks against bottled drinks considered “less healthy” than their own – the corporate equivalent of throwing the less trendy members of your party under the bus.

The message? They’d like you to know just how darned good bottled water is for the environment:

Paolo Sangiorgi, managing director of Nestlé Waters UK, said: “Not many people realise that natural bottled water comes from fully sustainable sources and in recyclable packaging.

I’d suggest that fewer people realize that 75%-85% of plastic water bottles end up in landfills, but I suspect the Hydration Council won’t be focusing on that fact. Or that “fully sustainable” apparently means something different to water bottlers than it does to fish, wildlife and watersheds – typically the downstream victims of Nestle’s water extraction projects.

Can Nestle be trusted? In North America, their inability to accept a “no” answer from the citizens of Fryeburg – and their total disregard for watersheds in McCloud, CA, and Mecosta, MI, suggest they’ve got a long ways to go.

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