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Nestle, Danone, Highland team up to protect bottled water

By Lorraine Heller , 01-Sep-2008
Last updated on 02-Sep-2008 at 16:30 GMT

The three leading UK suppliers of bottled water have created a new group designed to spread the word on the economic and social value of their product, amidst continuing pressures surrounding its alleged environmental impact.

Danone Waters, Highland Spring and Nestlé Waters said the new Natural Hydration Council, formally launched today, will provide “authoritative” information and advice for researchers, government, industry and consumers.

Concerns over the perceived environmental impacts of transporting and bottling mineral water have over the last year led to increasing attacks from environmental organisations and some politicians around the world.

While industry has moved to attack such claims as exaggerated and misplaced, today’s move appears to be taking more of a line of action rather than reaction.

“Not many people realise that natural bottled water comes from fully sustainable sources and in recyclable packaging. We need the Council to undertake new research and communicate the facts to ensure fully informed consumer choices,” said Paolo Sangiorgi, managing director of Nestlé Waters UK.

The Natural Hydration Council will provide Consumers “with an informed choice on the health and sustainability aspects of naturally sourced water,” added Nick Krzyzaniak, managing director of Danone Waters UK & Ireland.

Bottled water market

Despite recent criticisms, current estimates on potential growth of bottled waters remain buoyant, according to findings by consumer analyst Zenith international.

If the current market growth continues, global consumption of the product is expected to grow to 251bn litres by 2011 from 187bn litres in 2006, Zenith said.

This potential is coming in part from growing innovation within the bottled water market, particular for added-value waters that claim to offer nutritional or cosmetic benefits.

In Western Europe alone, functional water consumption rose to an estimated 273m litres in 2006 from just 30m litres in 2000.

In the UK, bottled water consumption amounted to 2,185 million litres in 2007, equivalent to 36 litres per person. UK bottled water sales at retail prices were worth £1.59bn or 73 pence per litre in 2007. The average price in supermarkets last year was 31 pence per litre.

North American pressures

Pressure on the bottled water industry is particularly sharp in North America. Last month, a US-based organic retail chain and the Canadian city of Windsor announced attempts to crack down on supplying the product, siding with growing international concern from some quarters over the packaging waste it creates.

My Organic Market (MOM), a Washington-based supplier of organic food and beverages, said that it would cease sales of bottled water products not sourced or bottled within the US at its stores.

The retailer claims that in line with its sustainability initiatives it has opted to cut down on non-domestic bottled water products due to energy, oil and water use required to ship and dispose of foreign produced brands.

"We are hoping that by discontinuing imported waters, customers who aren't already drinking tap water will consider making the switch,” said MOM grocery vice president Lisa de Lima.

Similarly, news reports in Canada suggest that the authorities in Windsor are looking to follow in the footsteps of other cities in the nation by refusing to supply bottled water at municipal facilities.

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