Food Marketing News bottled water

Published on January 8th, 2014 | by Jennifer Kaplan

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Should Bottled Water Companies Target Kids?

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Did you have to buy bottled water at the London Olympics?

The NPD Group has taken First lady Michelle Obama’s campaign encouraging kids to drink more water in a new, opportunistic direction. NPD is advocating that bottled water companies step up their efforts to sell bottled water to kids.

There are so many things wrong with the bottled water industry (sly marketing ploys, oceans of PET’ around the world, etc…) So, I was not surprised to read about the newest marketing tactic being considered by big bottled water: The targeting of kids. According to cspnet.com, the NPD Group, a retail consulting and data firm, has taken First lady Michelle Obama’s campaign encouraging kids to drink more water in a new, opportunistic direction. Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst says bottled water companies should step up their efforts to sell bottled water to kids.

“Beverage companies and retailers can step up and support the effort by promoting the health benefits of drinking water and beverages with little or zero calories to parents and kids.”

Given the fact that kids don’t drink as much water as they could or should, this presents an interesting dilemma. The simple answer is that kids should be encouraged to use reusable water bottles when on the go. When looking at tap water vs. bottled water we know that tap water is less expensive and just as healthy as bottled water. Not to mention that single-use water bottles are a huge environmental problem.

On the flip side, reusable water bottles are totally mainstream. The Good Housekeeping Research Institute tested 32 reusable, BPA-Free Water Bottles BPA-free water bottles and found several options that are spill-proof, easy to use, durable, stylish, and easy to clean starting at $4 a bottle. The solution seems simple, right? Reusable water bottles are healthy, environmentally better and inexpensive. But what happens when you’re on the go and you stop in at a 7-11 to grab some drinks? Shouldn’t kids be encouraged to grab the bottled water instead of the sugary soda or ice tea? The reality is that soft drink companies are not going to promote reusable water bottles. But, soft drinks companies all sell bottled water and so any movement toward marketing water to kids — if it offsets marketing of soft drinks — is probably a good thing.

While I’d love to see retailers encourage parents and kids to reach for reusable bottles, soft drink companies aren’t going to help (the truth is that most retailers do in fact sell inexpensive reusable bottles).  And since retailers typically promote whatever the soft drink companies pay them to, its up to the soft drink companies. So, if parents and kids aren’t reaching for reusable bottles, I suppose reaching for a bottle of water over a Coke is the right way to go.

What do you think about water companies targeting kids?  Please let us know.

Photo: Shutterstock

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About the Author

Jennifer Kaplan writes regularly about sustainable food and wine, the intersection of food and marketing and food politics for EatDrinkBetter.com and is the author of Greening Your Small Business (November 2009, Penguin Group (USA)). She was been named one of The 16 Women You Must Follow on Twitter for Green Business. She has four kids, a dog, a hamster and an MBA - find her on .



  • Donovan Winnerbee

    I think you should check out the brand WAT-AAH! They have been doing this for years, and they were actually part of Michelle Obama’s Drink-Up campaign. Those guys have been preaching the same message for years so how is NPD’s theory new?

    • http://glueandglitter.com/main Becky Striepe

      I just ran across WAT-AAH! at the store recently and found the greenwashing/healthwashing from this brand almost comical. I get that bottled water companies want to turn a profit, but all of that plastic waste is not doing our children any favors. I feel like the real solution is encouraging kids to drink tap water from a reusable bottle. You can even get them a cute one, so they’re excited about it!

  • Maureen Beach

    The non-alcoholic beverage industry is a proud partner of the “Drink Up” campaign, which shares an important message that people of all ages should increase their water intake to stay in balance. Our industry offers a variety of bottled water choices that provide a convenient option for families on the go so that they can hydrate as a part of an active lifestyle.

    The beverage industry is also helping amplify the message that balancing calories and exercise is key. We voluntarily launched the Clear on Calories initiative in 2010 to support First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” anti-obesity campaign. Also, beginning in 2006, we voluntarily implemented national School Beverage Guidelines, slashing the number of beverage calories shipped to our nation’s schools by 90%.

    The fact is good health is influenced by total calories consumed from all sources countered by calories burned through physical activity. Staying hydrated is a key component of this balance, and our industry is helping support this goal with a vast array of options.

    • http://glueandglitter.com/main Becky Striepe

      I appreciate you being open about working for the bottled water industry – so often comments like this are astroturfed, and a little transparency is very refreshing. I totally agree – liquid calories count, and I am going to encourage my son to drink water over sugary drinks when he’s old enough to decide for himself (he is 10 months now). What troubles me about bottled water is the plastic waste and concerns about chemicals from that plastic leaching into the water my kid drinks.

  • http://www.bottledwater.org Chris Hogan

    I represent the bottled water industry and wanted to mention that bottled water is an important and healthy choice for consumers who are making a packaged beverage decision. We compete with other packaged beverages, not tap water – in fact, the International Bottled Water Association is also a proud sponsor of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Drink Up! campaign. We want more people to choose water, whether from the tap, a filter, or a bottle.

    One of the simplest changes a person can make is to switch to drinking water instead of other beverages that are heavy with sugar and calories. For those who want to eliminate or moderate calories, sugar, caffeine, artificial flavors or colors, and other ingredients from their diet, choosing water is the right choice – whether from the tap or in a bottle. Bottled water is a smart decision and a healthy choice when it comes to beverage options.

    I did want to touch on two points raised in some of the comments. Between 2000 and 2011, the average weight of a 16.9-ounce (half-liter) single-serve PET plastic bottle has declined nearly 48%. This has resulted in a savings of 3.3 billion pounds of PET resin since 2000.

    Also, it should be pointed out that PET plastic bottles are safe and reliable for food contact use. PET is used in a variety of packaging for many foods, including everything from peanut butter, soft drinks, and juices to beer, wine, and spirits. PET is approved as safe for food and beverage contact by the FDA and similar regulatory agencies throughout the world, and has been for over 30 years.

    Please visit http://www.BottledWater.org for more information about bottled water.

    • http://glueandglitter.com/main Becky Striepe

      I disagree strongly that you guys compete only with other bottled beverages. If the choice is a bottle of Coke or a bottle of water, obviously water is the better choice. But you can’t tell me with a straight face that the bottled water industry has never gone after municipal water to make consumers feel that tap water is less healthy than bottled.

      • http://www.bottledwater.org Chris Hogan

        Hi Becky, I often hear this particular issue raised when the discussion of bottled water comes up. Often it is an ad hominem attack by those who simply dislike bottled water.

        I would ask that you provide some examples of the bottled water industry attacking tap water. The fact is, the bottled water industry supports a strong public water system, which is important for providing citizens with clean and safe drinking water. Many bottled water companies use public water sources for their products. This water is then treated using a multi-barrier approach which may include one or more of the following: reverse osmosis, distillation, micro-filtration, carbon filtration, ozonation, and ultraviolet (UV) light, and bottled under sanitary conditions.

        That said, if you wish to raise the issue of safety, there are indeed some striking differences between the reliable safety of bottled water and tap water.

        As noted in the Drinking Water Research Foundation’s (DWRF) 2013 report, “Microbial Health Risks of Regulated Drinking Waters in the United States,” researchers estimate that more than 500 boil alerts occurred in the United States in 2010. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that waterborne diseases, such as Cryptosporidiosis and Giardiasis, cost the U.S. healthcare system as much as $539 million a year in hospital expenses.

        In 2006, EPA researchers reported an estimated 16.4 million cases of acute gastrointestinal illness per year are caused by tap water. Subsequent research has estimated that number of illnesses to be closer to 19.5 million case s per year.

        In contrast, a survey of FDA and state bottled water regulatory authorities, dated June, 2009 and conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), found there were zero outbreaks of foodborne illness from bottled water over a 5-year period. Moreover, in testimony before a July 9, 2009 Congressional hearing, an FDA official stated that the agency was aware of no major outbreaks of illness or serious safety concerns associated with bottled water in the past decade.

        If interested, you can access the full DWRF report here: http://www.thefactsaboutwater.org/uploads/CSA_FINAL_09302013protected.pdf

  • http://bereweber.blogspot.com/ Berenice Weber

    I agree that drinking water is great for kids, adults, for everybody! What is wrong with filling a bottle every morning with filtered or tap water?
    Also what good is for the children to “Drink-Up” more water when they are leaving a trail of destruction for the planet behind every bottle?
    Please do NOT drink bottled water, is an immense environmental problem! Drink water but from a re-usable bottle!
    “In the U.S., 1,500 plastic water bottles are consumed every second. Here’s why that’s a major problem for humans, the environment, and the animals on our planet.”
    http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/whats-the-problem-with-plastic-bottles/

    • http://glueandglitter.com/main Becky Striepe

      Could not agree with this more!

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