Press Clips: Chided on Calif. Drought, Starbucks Seeks New Source for Ethos Water

No Water, No Peace

A Mother Jones report that focused on a California-based source for Starbucks’ Ethos bottled water brand, which, situated in an area faced with “exceptional drought,” according to the news service, has ignited a flurry of criticism of the coffee giant in recent days. Starbucks has since announced that it will look for new sources for Ethos, a brand purchased by the company in 2005 which contributes five cents of every bottle sold to water conservation, education and charity programs in Third World countries.


In its Apr. 29 article, Mother Jones wrote that one of major sources of water Starbucks sources for Ethos “comes from private springs in Baxter, a small unincorporated community in Placer County.” Mother Jones noted that “the spring water comes free of charge—in California, water companies typically don’t have to pay for the groundwater they use.”

Less than a week later, Entrepreneur reported that Starbucks, in response to criticism, will attempt to find new sources for its bottled water brand. A spokesperson for Starbucks told Entrepreneur that “in support of [recently announced] California Governor Brown’s Executive Order to conserve water, Starbucks has reduced its water usage by 23 percent, and we are now looking at alternative sourcing solutions for Ethos water outside of the state while still meeting our commitment to those in need in the developing world.”

The vitriol against bottled water brands which source water from California has been ongoing for some time. Nestle, in particular, has come under fire for using a California-based water supply, at a time when state residents are being asked to dramatically reduce their water usage. Mother Jones noted that “while bottled water accounts for just a small fraction of California’s total water use, some residents are nonetheless fed up with bottling plants that profit off their dwindling water supply.”

Big Red vs. Big Ben

Big Red, which markets a well-known red-colored soft drink among other beverage brands, has sued  Catawissa Bottling Company, a tiny soda maker in California, claiming trademark infringement, according to The Dallas Morning News. In its lawsuit, Austin-based Big Red alleges that Catawissa’s Big Ben red cream soda, too closely resembles its flagship brand, particularly after Catawissa, a company founded in 1926, began using a clear plastic bottle for its sodas.


The similarities between the two products “led us to believe that these similarities were intentional and amounted to trademark infringement,” Big Red CEO Gary Smith told The News. Catawissa co-owner said that he was unaware of the lawsuit until The News contacted him, but did say that Big Red has warned him to “change the name [of the product], change the color, or we’re going to sue you.”

Proposed Vermont Soda Tax Falters

Legislation calling for a 2-cent-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in Vermont has fallen flat, according to Forbes. The levy would have taxed soda at a higher rate than that of wine and beer sold in the state and increased the price of a 2 L bottle of soda by up to 136 percent. The proposed tax did not make it out of committee, after legislators found they did not have the votes to move it forward.

The American Beverage Association, an industry trade group, vigorously fought against the enactment of a soda tax in Vermont — as it has in other states, including California — spending approximately $378,000 in marketing efforts calling on residents to oppose the effort, according to the Burlington Free Press.