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Bottled Water Industry Pushes Snob Appeal, But at What Price?

July 01, 2008 03:16 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Clever marketing and even professional water aficionados have consumers convinced that tap water just won’t do, but critics worry about the bottled beverage’s environmental implications.

30-Second Summary

Water connoisseurs can now consume premium bottled waters from almost every part of the world, from prehistoric mineral water from artesian Swedish springs to concentrated, desalinated Hawaiian water.

Professional sommeliers insist that certain waters best accompany certain types of food
, and that the “fine-water experience” depends on “mouthfeel,” or how many bubbles of varying sizes are present in the water.

Count Indiana University anthropology professor Richard Wilk among the skeptics. “Taste for water is as much an effort of imagination as it is an objective fact,” Wilk says. Many others agree.

The water industry’s campaign to convince people that its products are superior to tap water is an astonishing marketing scheme, on par with “selling snow to Eskimos,” says a recent Washington Post report.

Critics say that in blind taste tests, subjects consistently fail to differentiate between different bottled brands and tap water. In fact, some bottled waters actually are tap water, a fact that has gotten at least one bottler in, well, hot water.

More alarmingly, critics point out the detrimental environmental effect involved in the transport of waters from various exotic locations and the discarding of plastic bottles.

And while wealthy consumers pay for a product that is already supplied to them for free via a scientifically advanced clean drinking water supply system, people in poor countries often have little or no access to clean water.

‘What's Colorless and Tasteless and Smells Like ... Money?’

Background: ‘Diners Succumb to Water Pressure’; bottlers face environmental criticism

Opinion & Analysis: ‘The Making of a Water Snob’

Related Topics: Seattle bans bottled water; Dasani falls flat

Reference: ‘Bottled Water of the World’


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