Glass is Half Empty for Bottled Water Industry

Chalk it up to being environmentally minded, or perhaps just price conscious. Either way – the bottled water industries are suffering right now, and our environment has at least a small reason to rejoice.

The problem with bottled water is well known… The lack of recycling participation leads our landfills to become filled with discarded plastic bottles of water, which have nowhere to go for hundreds of years. While some communities try to crack down on those who refuse (or “forget”) to participate in recycling programs – the efforts have little impact on the larger issues at hand.

While bottled water will continue to be a problem for the environment, companies that produce water here in America are feeling a pinch.

The Washington Post has more on the matter in their article Bottled Water Boom Appears Tapped Out:

The recession has finally answered the question that centuries of philosophers could not: The glass is half-empty.

That’s because sales of bottled water have fallen for the first time in at least five years, assailed by wrathful environmentalists and budget-conscious consumers, who have discovered that tap water is practically free. Even Nestle, the country’s largest seller of bottled water, is beginning to feel a bit parched. On Wednesday, it reported that profits for the first half of the year dropped 2.7 percent, its first decline in six years.

The biggest loser? Water.

“It’s an obvious way to cut back,” said Joan Holleran, director of research for market research firm Mintel. “People might still be buying bottled water, but you can bet that they’re refilling those bottles.”

The news delighted environmentalists, who have long berated the industry for wasting natural resources and stuffing landfills with plastic bottles. “I thought we’d never be able to impact sales of bottled water, and all of a sudden it’s really gained momentum,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of advocacy group Food & Water Watch. “I think we’re making real progress.”

Not so long ago, bottled water was bubbling. It climbed up the ranks of America’s favorite beverages in recent years, beating out juice to become the third most popular in 2008, according to Mintel. (Soda is the drink of choice by far, followed by milk.) Sales of bottled water swelled 59 percent to $5.1 billion between 2003 to 2008, making it one of the fastest growing beverages. About 70 percent of consumers say they drink bottled water.

But the economic downturn is stemming the tide. Nestle sells a variety of brands, such as Poland Spring, Deer Park, S. Pellegrino and Perrier. It was the only sector in Nestle’s food and beverage group to post a decline in global sales during the first half of the year, down 2.9 percent because of weakness in the United States and Western Europe. Coca-Cola has also blamed softening demand for weaker U.S. sales of its bottled waters.

According to consulting firm Beverage Marketing Corp., Americans drank 8.7 billion gallons of bottled water last year, compared with 8.8 billion in 2007 — the first decline this decade. Per capita consumption dropped from 29 gallons to 28.5. Jeff Cioletti, editor in chief of trade publication Beverage World, said he doesn’t believe bottled water will return to galloping growth for a long while.

“There were sort of a lot of headwinds,” he said.

Those forces include not only the economic downturn, which is whacking at sales of everything from cars to clothes, but also the massive campaign by environmentalists to get consumers to turn on the tap.

One Response to “Glass is Half Empty for Bottled Water Industry”
  1. Thomas says:

    Great news at last we are waking up to the environmental dangers of bottled water. Waste plastic bottles are a real environmental burden, not forgetting the possibility that a large numbers of these bottles also ‘leach’ chemicals like bisphenol A into the water they are holding.

    Hopefully, our slow awakening towards a greener future will continue unabated.


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