< Continued from "Bottle Water History Series - Part 1"

“Marketing Trick of the Century”

After reflecting on the history of bottled water, the next question is, “How did it become a $15 billion dollar industry and surpass soda and soft drinks as the number one beverage?”

In short, years ago, the consumable drinks industry took notice of the dwindling infrastructure of our water systems. Through their marketing efforts, they capitalized on the rich history of bottled water and brought it to us all. Clean and safe water was now available for everyone.

They also capitalized on the health conscious trend in numerous ways. Big drink companies (like Coke, Pepsi, and Nestle) understood that their traditional "Kingpin of Earnings” aka soda products had shortcomings in this new found health trend. So they adjusted and diversified. If you are gonna drink something, they want to make sure it's one of their products. These companies acquired as many resources as possible to control the market and then turned on the advertising faucet - big time. Naturally, they sprinkled in enough truth to make their story believable and palatable. This equation created the $15 billion annual sales of bottled water in the USA.

Up to 70% of the human body is water. Water is a staple of life. We have always known this.

The Engineer’s Creed in disposing of waste (“the solution to pollution is dilution”) helps us better understand the importance of clean water. Most engineers would agree that much of our delivery systems and pipes are antiquated. That is a scary truth that provides a background of legitimate news stories about the safety of our water. Over the years, those stories have fed into the marketing pitch. Tap water bad. Bottled water good.

The Marketing Pitch — Beautiful mountain streams. Remote locations revealed only to the gods and barely touched by humans. “You can’t get there from here, but we have the next best thing; our water." What could be healthier or better for the body than a drink from that stream? Meanwhile, in the background, a calm, mellow voice narrates about the thirst throughout the world, but how you can enjoy the nectar of the gods.

Here at home, water mains are breaking, lead is in our drinking water, and chlorine levels in Municipal waters are on the rise. So what do they do? A chlorine flush to clean out the pipes, but the net result is even more chemical waste in our drinking waters. And people were complaining, saying the water just didn’t taste right.

The alignment of these factors helped funnel the ultimate message for the new market tactics to take hold. "Tap water bad. Bottled water good."

Next step - Eliminate the competition and control the supply.

Most all of the small mom and pop water springs were bought up, along with the smaller water companies. I fondly remember a bottler in New Jersey that bottled the best five gallons of water I ever tasted when I was growing up.

"Eliminate the competition and control the supply."

The smaller bottled water industry has always had a place in history. But now they're all gone. Beverage conglomerates have bought them all up. And now they are buying water rights and using loopholes to keep their sweet deals going. Most of these brands are, for the most part, just filtering and bottling municipal water. Remember "Tap water bad. Bottled water good."

With beverage companies feeling the adverse impact of soda sales, diet and otherwise, they saw that they need to direct more attention and advertising dollars towards marketing their bottled water. Beverage companies started re-allocating resources. They started directing more advertising dollars toward the promotion of water. Why? A lot higher profit margin when supply is not a problem and all you have to do is filter, bottle, and market it.

Now let’s look at some numbers;

If you go back to 1986 [anyone over 30] sales of bottled water were trivial. The typical American didn’t drink even a single half-liter bottle a week.

In 2000, each American was drinking 53.7 gallons of carbonated soda annually, equal to 573 twelve-ounce cans a year, or eleven cans a week. Soda consumption in 2015 was down to 38.9 gallons per person. In contrast, from 2000 to 2015, bottled water consumption more than doubled, from 16.7 gallons a person to 36.4 gallons.

When people buy into this convenience, they are buying a thermoplastic polymer container aka Polyethylene Terephthalate, (PET), the single most significant innovation in the industry's history. But be clear, it's not just about the water.

Bottled water isn’t evil. It’s been around for centuries and makes sense. Plastic bottled water is a different story. It's time to evaluate the cost to our planet and our health and seek alternative options.

We're just getting started. Stay tuned for Part 3.

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