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USA Today reports this morning that bottled water – in recent years a hot commodity and growing product category – is facing tough times. Part of the reason is environmental, as more people question the wisdom of using and disposing so much plastic, which is made from so much oil. At the same time, USA Today writes, questions “have been raised about the need for a relatively costly convenience product that in many cases is purified municipal tap water. Top-selling Aquafina recently was the latest brand to put that origin on its label, after prodding by consumer group Corporate Accountability. The PepsiCo (PEP) brand saw a sales dip from the negative publicity and has replaced scheduled ads for the next few weeks with one about its seven-step purification process.”

According to the paper, there may be a movement growing here: “Last month, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom banned city buying of bottled water for its facilities. Last week, a Chicago councilman proposed a 10- to 25-cent tax on bottled water to help pay for a $40 million water and sewer fund deficit — partly due to less tap water consumption.”

One of the things that these issues have done is raised the visibility and credibility for competing products and technologies, such as in-home water filters, that can fill the consumer need. Another mini-trend: refillable bottles that carry water and wear slogans such as “make love not landfill" and "friends don't let friends drink from plastic."

Bottled water manufacturers are fighting back, however, using marketing tools to tout their own environmental records and how they are working to reduce packaging for their products.
KC's View:
I haven’t noticed the refillable bottles in any stores where I’ve shopped, but I know exactly where retailers should stock them – right next to the canvas shopping bags that they should be selling to consumers at the front end.