Bottled Water Backlash Continuing

Here’s an interesting piece on the bottled water industry and the slight problems it is encountering as the nation embraces green chic (embodied by high-end restaurants dropping bottled water from their menus). Key takeaway is this – those same groups whose concerns about clean municipal water supplies led to the mass uptake of bottled water as a reliable source of drinking water have now re-thought that strategy as they come to believe that the buildup of bottles in landfills and the high production cost of those bottles has the potential to be far more damaging.

So here’s the question — can they convince the country that municipal drinking water is now not that bad (actually, it was already not that bad at the time of the rise of bottled water, there were just a few scares and some well-timed product placements) and that the real issue is use of petroleum in the manufacture of PET bottles? And if those groups can do it, how will the bottled water industry respond?

The industry, of course, is already thinking about just that problem and Nestle Waters Honcho Kim Jeffery has called for a reduction in PET thickness. But there’s going to have to be a real re-calibration of strategy at some point — relying on the public’s fears might have taken the bottled water industry as far as it can go, and there’s got to be some new innovation. It’s going to be hard to sell water as a “treat” beverage — the direction the CSD companies are headed for — and many of the still and sparkling H2O folks still haven’t figured out how to handle functionality.

I’m not saying I wouldn’t like to be a Poland Spring distributor or something — but I’d want to be prepared when the pendulum of public opinion swings the other way.