2006-04-23

Bottled water = Snake Oil

Image hosting by PhotobucketI went into BiLo across the road and noted down the softdrink, fruit juice and water prices (23 April 2006), dropped them into a spreadsheet for a quick comparison of what the various liquids cost per litre (the last column). The cheapest beverage was BiLo softdrink at 52 cents per litre. The most expensive was Evian at $2.96 per litre. That is Evian spring water, no juice or carbonation. This has to be one very magical spring. Certainly the shareholders would think so.

Rough median price for softdrink is $1.17/L, juice is $1.35/L and water is $1.54/L.

I think that we can extrapolate and say that by adding sugar and flavour to water, then carbonating the mixture you have actually devalued the water. A farmer growing fruit for juicing may well consider letting the damned plants dry up and just filter his quota of water, bottle it and sell it as "Farmer Joe's Purified Fruit Water".

Why would I note down prices? Aside from being a nerd, I am NOT a trainspotter. I was going to the stupid football to watch my idiot team get beaten by the bottom of the ladder team, grrrrr. Anyways, my girlfriend, who is full of great practical ideas always insists that we take in our own snacks, seeing as the food at the football is two to four times more expensive than reasonable standard pricing. Aside from twisties and chocolate we also get water. I was checking the water prices and noted that the softdrink was cheaper in the same volume. I wanted a 1.25 litre bottle of water. It was less than half price for me to buy some 69cent BiLo softdrink, pour the contents on the ground and fill the now empty bottle with my filtered water from home than to buy the cheapest ($1.49) 1.25 litre bottle of water. It was then that I felt a blog article coming on.

I like water. Often when I am out and about on this little ball of dirt, I become thirsty and require hydration. I like my water to be taste free and filtered if possible which means that occasionally the local tap water just doesn't cut it. Bribie Island leaps to mind; I'm thinking they pipe their water straight from the swamps.

Fortunately, shops are everywhere that sell a range of water products along side the fizzy sugar laden beverages, fruit juices and occasional pseudo-milk drinks. Unfortunately, these retailers want a premium for their plain old water.

The marketers would have us think that the water comes bubbling up from mystical pure springs found high in the mountains, either straight from a melting glacier or filtered through tonnes of dirt before being scooped up, dumped into handy plastic containers and shipped to your local shop. Naturally these springs contain some minerals and such - Sodium, Chloride, Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium. Oh and probably more Aluminium than you really should be consuming (thank you Coca-Cola; owner of Peats Ridge / Neverfail / Mount Franklin). Also various FDA tests in the US have reported harmful levels on Nitrates, Arsenic, Chloroform, Bromodichloro-methane, Phthalate (hormone disrupter and carcinogen) and Lead.

So is bottled water better than tap water? No, no, no, no, hell no.

Is bottled water better than filtered water? Well our friends at the The Australasian Bottled Water Institute (ABWI) would have you think that water filters are poisonous traps for people-killing bacteria. The conclusion of the ABWI
"Because of the problems and costs associated with water filter use, the ABWI recommends bottled water as a safe and reliable alternative."
So putting my filtered water in a bottle that used to contain softdrink is unsafe, unreliable because my water filter system has problems!
"By purchasing water from an ABWI accredited bottler, you can be guaranteed every drop you consume is safe and sanitary."
I think this statement equals "please sue me if our water is ever found to be unsafe". Nice one. I wonder if Tony Gentile, Executive Director of ABWI, can cover the legal liability, if the ABWI organisation has any funding or insurance to cover law suits when one of his members starts poisoning people with some arsenic or heavy metals.

The Australasian Bottled Water Institute (ABWI) would like to remind you "that human blood is 95% water" or maybe "Blood is 92% water", it seems the ABWI are not that certain. Most other sites quote 83%. I imagine the folks at the ABWI have more dilute blood than the rest of us. I don't trust any of the sites as they are all non-medical and do not site sources. I'm happy to go with: there is a lot of water in our blood ... so if you're really thirsty then ... no, let's not go there.

The ABWI claim the products of their members are a "chemical free alternative". They should be VERY nervous about making that claim for a variety of reasons. I also like thier claims under "Benefits of Good Hydration" one of which is "Protection - Cancer Research!" ... so water protects you from cancer research? Sweet. Those cancer researchers are a menace.

The hippies over at The Earth Policy Institute have a great little essay on bottled water.

If you want to kill off bacteria in water then SODIS method sounds like an exceedingly easy method to follow. Basically, just put the water in a clear bottle on your roof for six hours of daylight, heat and UV radiation kill the bugs.

Choice have an article on bottled water that has a more comprehensive list of bottled water prices taken from a number of stores around Sydney in March 2005. The median price is reduced somewhat to about $1.15/L. Assuming there has been no recent price rise, this brings water into line with softdrink pricing ... which is still freaking insane for something that the company adds so little value to. Frankly I don't think pricing is worth more investigation other than collusion for price fixing.

More recently PBS have an article about bottled water looking at just how safe the water is and where it all comes from. Mmm, can you say SCAM.

Conclusions: Bottled water has a very high stupidity tax on it, that is being collected by the beverage companies. It is OK to be stupid every now and again; forget to bring your own water once in a while, but you have to learn to BYO or you'll just be funding the next Beverage Company junket.

My recommendations:
  • Get a water filter.
  • Change your water filters regularly.
  • Avoid buying bottled water where possible, BYO.
  • Don't buy softdrink in cans.
  • Buy Pepsi instead of Coke, Pepsi-Max instead of Coke-Zero
  • When BiLo has 2L Pepsi-Max on special for $1.27 then buy them all!

And remember "that human blood is 95% water" (or maybe 83%), the other 5% is pure evil.

Bottled Water Lobby’s Misinformation Campaign Oct 2008

Bottled-water sales begin to dry up Aug 2009

6 comments:

Narbs said...

I agree. Buy one bottle of water or even better, just a good aluminium water container that's treated for liquid consumption and just fill it from filtered water or the tap. Bottled water is the biggest rort in history - they must be laughing their arses off - all I can say is buy shares in the company because it's pure cream - the costs are ridiculously low.

DragonflysMind said...

The ABWI needs to back up their claims with SCIENTIFIC research. And statements such as: "Benefits of Good Hydration" .... "Protection - Cancer Research!" leads me to believe the Institute's head honcho has nothing more than rocks in his head and a marketing officer that flunked uni. The 'Institute' sounds more like a CORPORATION. Corporations are about money. Making lots of money. They are greedy, pretentious and often misleading. The fact that "the ABWI recommends bottled water as a safe and reliable alternative" implies that not only is filtered water potentially harmful, but so too is the normal tap water that we generally consume on a daily basis. What rot! Seriously, if it was the Institute's best interest to provide the public with safer alternatives, then essentially one would assume that extensive scientific testing was conducted prior to making bogus claims such as this: "By purchasing water from an ABWI accredited bottler, you can be guaranteed every drop you consume is safe and sanitary." Translation: "By buying the product, the man and his followers get richer while you sip on bottled water that you could have simply drunk from a tap." Of course the act of drinking directly from a tap is unsightly for a lady and perhaps this is the reason why some of the more stylish women are carrying bottled water by Evian. Evian is a producer of mineral water from the French Alps. Ooooooo, fancy huh? It is also "your natural source of youth ™." Wow! And if you're still not impressed, they even offer the Evian Brumisateur and skin products to complement the bottled water to fuel your never ending quest for eternal youth. Puhleeeaaasssse!!!!!!! What a load of rubbish! A few years back there were stories about celebrities ONLY bathing in Evian water. Ok sure, knowing that you're bathing in water from France might make you feel special (and better than everyone else), but it's not really much use if you are planning to pollute it with your favourite bubble bath mix from Japan. It's a waste of money really. Are you not aware that little Somalian kids are dying from dehydration?! Ignorance is bliss. Anyways, most celebrities are pretty stupid. Literally, attractive but intellectually defunct. Think Jessica Simpson & Paris Hilton. More often than not, they are pure representations of products that you don't need... you know, the infamous Louis Vuitton bags. Errgh!! Remember that behind every celebrity is a man. The man. A devious man that undoubtedly works for a corporation. A corporation that hires uneducated people with big mouths to run money grabbing unresearched so-called 'Institutes' that mislead consumers into believing they need to buy THEIR products. Unless a product is supported by substantial scientific evidence that states in writing to be truly beneficial towards my bodily functions, then I won't buy it. Nor will I be persuaded by ridiculous marketing campaigns that use superficial celebrities and unnecessary sexual themes to promote useless crap that I do not need. On occasion, I have been forced to buy bottled water. In terms of taste, there's really no difference (oh, unless you compare it with flavoured waters, which I find utterly revolting!). Most of my friends share similar opinions. In fact, it would seem that the Institute's main competitor is the 'Water Filter'. No wonder they have been silently bitch-slapping filtration methods. How dare they steal customers!! Especially if potential customers like me are smart enough to refill those mega-sized juice bottles with their generous friend's filtered water stash!! Muuawahaha!! ;) My advice: Beware of bogus marketing strategies. Find out the facts. Determine whether you actually NEED the product (this is where 'life-or-death' reasoning with oneself comes in handy!). And purchase with confidence. :)

Anonymous said...

It's unfortunate that you think corporations are evil. There are a few corporations that I think are actually nice, warm and fuzzy. LG, for instance, Geodynamics (Australia's experimental geothermal energy supplier), also comes to mind, not to mention the likes of Lindt or perhaps Swift and Moore. I think that confusing a legal structure with something more fundamental to capitalism shows the same lack of criticality that one could ascribe to Jessica Simpson. The problems you mention are not those of a corporation, but rather those of unethical and relentless pursuit of a better ROI.

One can have the same issues in Partnerships like Arthur Andersen, or in sole traders (see A Current Affair or Today Tonight dodgy Lebanese builders story when their 'news' cycle reaches it. In short, please don't blame an innocent legal concept for the actions of meanies who happen to be excellent business men relieving you of your cash :)

neoporcupine said...

Anonymous, if that is your real name; for convenience, I shall refer to you as James. James, I don't think that Dragonfly was referring to every coorporation, but just the ones in our faces, the ones that insist on being known and forcing us to buy their products.

I have been hearing about a couple outstanding companies who are doing great things like being totally environmentally responsible. Unfortunately, you have to be aware of obscure parts of the net and media to find these things out. Check out TreeHugger and Co-Op America, specifc companies like Milliken and various big companies making the right noises including some big names like HP, Epson, General Electric, BP Amoco, Shell Oil, Ford, Xerox, Philips Electronics. I like the zero waste iniatives that some companies are moving towards and not only reaping public relations benefits but also finding zero waste is highly economical.

Unfortunately it feels like there are only money grubbing corporations out there because they use their wealth in marketing (which is mostly deception), and marketing gets in our face. People are starting to get sick of it. Legitimate ethical Corporations should start to get worried and begin to put pressure on the rogues.

The question is which way do most companies tend to lean: (1) ethical, issue sensitive companies, (2) profit above all, environmental rapist companies?

So painting all corporations as evil until you know otherwise may be an effective solution for change for the unwashed masses. Sure it annoys people who are doing business oriented double degrees that have way more information than Joe Dope and Jane Ditz, but there are more Joe&Janes than you and I have no problem turning the anti-marketing inaccuracies against their marketing inaccuracies. So all corporations kill kittens. Except the ones that James likes. There, I said it. It needed saying and I was the one to say it. :)

I would encourage you, James, to create a site that contains a white-list of corporations, perhaps called "Corporations that do not kill kittens".

Morte said...

Perhaps LG as a 'corporation' is nicer than some, but as a specific example of my experience with them - I waited over 12 months for a 1080p rearpro TV to become available in Australia - any 1080p rearpro - and LG promised to be the first, with the 71SA1D.
http://www.dtvforum.info/index.php?showtopic=25678&hl=71sa1d

Both HN and VideoPro were advertising this model in October/November 2005, I ordered from HN, with an indication it could be ordered & instore in 2 weeks. This of course stretched into a month, 2 months, 3 months, and eventually at the end of Feb 2006, I gave up.
Up to then, the LG vendor rep had been feeding a line to the HN sales guys (and presumably the VideoPro guys) that LG were aware of the high demand in Australia, and that the first 30 or so sets in the country had been snatched up on preorders well before Oct/Nov, and LG were unable to get stocks in because of the 'Sydney docks industrial action', then the 'Sydney customs software issues', and then LG were considering flying sets to the state centres with outstanding orders.
On the LG Aust website, information on that model went from non-existent, to a vague press release, to a full spec workup and even downloadable pdf manual, with RRP eventually being adjusted from $7999 up to $11999.
Submitted queries to their sales and tech email contacts went pretty much unheeded however.
Of course, none of this came to anything, and the next thing I heard was that LG were officially pulling out of Australian LCoS distribution and support, and were removing advertising from distributors, as they 'didn't see an ongoing sustainable economic marketplace for that technology'

So, I cancelled my HN order. And lo, just as I gave up, Toshiba had what I wanted in two models - 62CM9UA and 72CM9UA, and the 72" model was even instock and on display in HN, and they let me take my PC in to plug and play/testdrive. Even tho it was DLP not LCoS which I wanted...
I put an order in for the 62", and true to the HN sales guy's word, it arrived at the end of the week.

So to recap - LG is just like any other corporation. Profit and shareholders first, as is the legal mandate of any corporation.
Not only that, but the morons making decisions on Asia/Pacific distribution obviously can't tell their ass from a hole in the ground - to whit - the difference between no sales because of no demand, and no sales because the actual product was not available for over 4 months from the promised release date.

I daresay if it is cheaper to not drown kittens, then they won't drown kittens...

Norman said...

Wow, such a great post. Totally agreed.