The phenomenon of bottled-water consumption is a microcosm of what consumers go through every day in the ongoing and relentless battle for our disposable dollar.
Not that many years ago, perhaps starting in the late ’80’s if memory serves correct, we were strongly encouraged to drink more water for its health benefits. According to the hype of the time, thirst was no longer a good indicator of the need for water. We were in fact, all dehydrated and didn’t know it. Even weight-gain was attributable to a lack of water, the body ostensibly misdiagnosing thirst as hunger and proceeding to eat rather than drink.
Eight glasses a day we were told was the ideal amount, not including coffee, which it turned out according to the “researchers” to not be a good source of water because it was also a diuretic and you lost as much as you took in (not true).
Store shelves began to expand with new brands of bottled water drawn from ancient wells in Tuscany, or melted from million-year old icebergs. Carrying a bottle of water became a near status symbol. Every hotel room now came with a bottle of water (at $7 for a small bottle of course).
Then came the push-back from the Environmental Movement. Bottled water was a catastrophe it turns out, polluting the landscape with plastic bottles, filling the landfills, and emptying local aquifers to the detriment of villagers and farmers whose wells were now drying up. Transporting water from exotic locales, it turns out, used up precious petroleum and polluted the air with carbon. Coincidentally [Ha!], water-filter makers like Brita, started ad campaigns vilifying bottled water and extolling the virtues of tap-water passed through their products in order to purify it.
In the space of a few years, carrying a non-refillable water bottle became akin to rolling a pack of cigarettes into the sleeve of your t-shirt. Tap water became the noble choice, carried around in refillable bottles – until of course, the BPA scandal broke – which sent consumers into a tizzy, looking for BPA-free reusable bottles.
And so it goes. The store shelves are still lined with a vast array of waters, although the proliferation of brands may have slowed a little. You don’t see too many people carrying water bottles around, and if they do, they’re quick to point out that they refill them.
Of course, no one mentions that the consumption of canned and bottled soft-drinks dwarfs that of water. And…they are made from….water! Strange that no one has picked up on that, hmmmm, could it be because soft-drink makers are among the world’s largest corporations? Nah.
That’s us! The consumer. Jostled to the left, then to the right – like in a crowded subway train – while someone stick his hand in our pocket.