Aug 15, 2009

Sign of times: Bottled water sales down

Conserv-A-Store says:

There are some possible good results of the worst recession since WWII.

The reckless first 6 years of the 21st century, showed American humans to care little for anything but more consumption. But today the lack of spendable dollars has demonstrated to Americans there is a more frugal and realistic way to live that will oddly help the environment as the below article exposes.

The main question is whether or not our habits will continue the moderation when things get a little bit better in the next few years?

Another result of the recession: The sale of bottled water is down for the first time in at least five years.

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.

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 U.S. and Western Europe. Coca-Cola has also blamed softening demand for weaker United States 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.

According to Food & Water Watch, more than 17 million barrels of oil -- enough to fuel 1 million cars for a year -- are needed to produce the plastic water bottles sold in the United States annually.

And about 86 percent of the empty bottles get thrown into the trash rather than recycled.

courtesy of

Washington Post Service 8/15/09

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