Grocery decision-makers beware: The media push for tap water instead of bottled water could be a threat to your business. Even worse, it isn't based in truth.
Here are some cold, wet facts: Tap water is not comparable to bottled water for human health. There are important differences in the quality of source waters, regulation (EPA vs. FDA and industry groups), testing and delivery.
For example, as a member of the International Bottled Water Association my company has more stringent standards for 31 separate contaminants than does the EPA. We also test for at least 19 more contaminants than the EPA standard.
The threat to grocers comes if they simply assume, as was even repeated on the pages of SN, that “bottled water is a convenience buy and fashion statement of sorts,” [Editorial column, “How Consumer Trends Flow …,” Aug. 27, Page 8]. That assumption may be valid for the c-store channel, but not on the premium end of the bottled water business where grocers should focus, and where margins and sales growth rates are higher. There, health and taste benefits drive shoppers' decisions.
Grocers' opportunity comes in managing the water portfolio. Our $12 billion category is not defined by just a few purified-water brands packaged in plastic. It is a collection of water types (purified and spring, still and sparkling), packages (plastic and glass) and brands. Grocers who, for example, create separate premium water sections or locate specialty waters at multiple points in their stores, around organic, natural, kosher, etc., achieve great results.
Jim Karrh, chief marketing officer
Mountain Valley Spring Co.
Hot Springs Natl. Park, Ark.