Bottled-water industry: Waterlog

July 23, 2008

Many in the industry would rather avoid the question

“SPARKLING or still?” The waiter’s question seems to offer a choice, but is in fact designed to deny it: tap water, after all, is never on the menu. According to Elizabeth Royte’s “Bottlemania”, in 2002 Nestle produced a training manual aimed at waiters called “Pour on the Tips”. Converting guests to pricey bottled water, it said, could boost their monthly earnings by $100 or more. Some waiters even try to humiliate people who resist. “I get great pleasure out of making each of those ladies who are trying to impress their friends repeat the word ‘tap’ back to me,” wrote a server on “The Waiter’s Revenge”, an online message board.

Snobbery, convenience and worries about tap water have propelled the American bottled-water industry from sales of $4 billion in 1997 to $10.8 billion in 2006. Globally the industry is now worth about $60 billion. As well as the plain variety, there are now bottled waters laced with all sorts of extra ingredients, such as caffeine, appetite suppressants, skin enhancers and even laxatives. Bottled-water giants such as Nestle, the Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo reckon that the market will continue to fizz. Last year Coca-Cola spent $4.1 billion to buy Glaceau, a firm that makes vitamin-enhanced water. …


via The Economist: Full print edition on 7/17/08