There’s a PR battle brewing between fans and critics of the bottled water industry, and it’s reached a boiling point.
The stakes are high: Americans in ’06 consumed 8.2 billion gallons of bottled water, translating to $10.9 billion in revenue for producers – an 8.5 percent gain from 2005 (Beverage Marketing Corp).
The debate: consumer advocacy group Corporate Accountability International has launched a “Think Outside the Bottle” campaign claiming superiority of tap water over bottled water. “Superiority” may be a strong word, but the group is pushing for accountability – citing that up to 40 percent of bottled water uses tap water as its initial source (including Coke’s Dasani, Nestle’s Pure Life, etc.).
This summer, major U.S. cities have jumped into the debate. San Francisco and Salt Lake City announced they’d begin prohibiting the cities’ departments and agencies from purchasing bottled water, and New York City recently ran a campaign promoting the quality of its own tap water.
The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) and American Beverage Association (ABA) have been working hand in hand to combat this “negative” PR. Despite their efforts there has already been one notable defector: Pepsi just agreed to identify clearly the source of its water on all Aquafina bottles (i.e. “Public Water Source”).
Joe Doss, IBWA president and CEO, makes a great case when he says “Drinking water is good. If it’s tap water, it’s good; if it’s bottled water, it’s good.” It shouldn’t come down to tap water vs. bottled water. My advice? Both sides should set aside their differences and unite against a common foe. Soda? Energy drinks? Take your pick.