October 2003: Volume 45, Number 10
Thirsting for World Domination-- Riding the Tide in Bottled Water
by Ronald Y. Pérez, WC&P Managing Editor
This month could potentially mark quite a turning point for the U.S. bottled water market. As almost everyone knows by now, the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is merging with the Worldwide Food Expo to bring what promises to be quite a gala event later this month in Chicago. Aside from this unprecedented marriage of sorts, it should also serve as a bellwether for how developments around the world are reacting to the industry’s popularity. The success of bottled water, despite incessant criticism, has reached a global level never seen before. In light of this uptick in sales and visibility, we have devoted this review to two bottled water international sites as well as two domestic ones.
According to a report cited in the “International” section of this magazine in the September issue, bottled water sales in the 50 countries of the Asia/Middle East Bottled Water Report have more than doubled since 1999, representing 30 percent of the global total. As a result, participation in the Asia Bottled Water Association (ABWA) show next month should reflect the region’s enthusiasm for the market.
This fact isn’t lost on the ABWA’s home page as the event is touted prominently. Compact is the best way to describe the site. Main buttons number 17 and there’s also a section for members only. Here, they can view a current market survey by UK-based Zenith International, an international market report by Hidell-Eyster, of Hingham, Mass., and they can provide input on the World Health Organization’s Water Guidelines. Both Zenith and Hidell-Eyster receive hefty plugs on this site.
Meanwhile, the main buttons cover a wide array of topics including more about the ABWA (it currently numbers 180 members in 33 countries from Asia, the Middle East and North Africa); the International Council of Bottled Water Association (ICBWA); how the bottled water industry is regulated in the United States; manufacturing practices in the industry; bottled water safety and quality (with special emphasis on Cryptospo-ridium), and what members can expect as part of their membership, i.e., literature, listings, certificates. Members can expect to pay from US$250 to US$700 a year. Finally, you’ll see a list of 14 suppliers and distributors from countries such as Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates.
How big are water coolers in the United Kingdom? Consider that it’s called the European Bottled Watercooler Association (EBWA) to distinguish itself from other bottled water organizations. (Ed. note: This fact will be explored further in next month’s “Dealer Profile” where an English company is scheduled to be featured.)
To confirm the distinction, the home page shares the fact that the Brussels, Germany-based EBWA was once known as the European Chapter of the International Bottled Water Association. Quite a mouthful. Overall, it has been in existence in one form or another for a decade. Again, this home page carries very little filler. Rather, visitors get seven straightforward main buttons: about us, services, news, events, resources, membership and links to members.
About us contains your run-of-the-mill mission statement and the mention of a couple of high-profile officers. Services underscores that members can expect to be given some direction with regard to technical training and equipment inspections. One of the more disappointing buttons is news since the site’s last entry is about the 2002 EBWA trade show, which took place over 1-½ years ago. For your information, next year’s show will be in Paris on Feb. 25-26 (see “Upcoming Events”). A nice addition is resources, where members are given tips on matters such as codes of practice, legislation and public relations. Membership gives visitors the opportunity to become, what else, a member. Lastly, links to members offers information on EBWA members from Italy, the Netherlands, the Nordic Watercooler Association, Spain and the UK.
The Northeast Bottled Water Association (NEBWA) covers several states—New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the New England states. There must be a contract between bottled water sites because this one also maintains a very staid appearance with the main buttons clearly located at the left of the home page. At the time of this writing, the association was gearing up for its fall convention in September.
Established in April 1985, the NEBWA, of West Hartford, Conn., touts itself as the largest and “most successful” of all regional associations in the United States. Dues for members total $100 a year. The site’s links page is a thorough look at associations, distributors, bottlers and suppliers. Each listing comes with a hyperlink. One pet peeve I still come across on the Internet is California Bottled Water Association’s alleged site: www.cbwa.org. It no longer exists (the new site is: www.cbwa.info) and, if you enter this URL, you face a slew of dreaded pop-up ads. Those who may have missed this year’s NEBWA show can attend next year’s spring conference in early April and the fall convention in October.
If the NEBWA insists it’s the largest bottled water association around, then the Austin-based Texas Bottled Water Association (TBWA) can lay claim to being the oldest (1952). The home page is pure glitterati compared to the previous three but is still easy on the eyes and even easier to navigate.
The TBWA promises to offer plenty of services to its members including technical support, regulatory, sales, business operations, manufacturing and marketing. Little more than that is promised as links are non-existent. One button, Industry News, is more of a short facts section. A morsel from that page is: “A mere 2% drop in body water can trigger fuzzy short-term memory, trouble with basic math, and difficulty focusing on the computer screen or on a printed page.” Strangely enough, I fell asleep on my keyboard while balancing my checkbook after reading that sentence.
A pleasant visual surprise can be found at Online NewsLetter where a .pdf version of TBWA’s four-page newsletter can be read complete with color photos and graphics. Very nice, TBWA! According to Application, dues for membership are $355 a year. Under Board of Directors, I see where some of the board makes their homes outside of Texas with representation from Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
With its inclusion in the Worldwide Food Expo later this month, the IBWA and the proposition of bottled water will be exposed to a whole other industry. This can only serve to maintain bottled water’s stake in the minds of the general public. It may even help take the industry to another level, globally as well as locally, that’s projected through these websites.