April 5th, 2011

As U.S. Bottled Water Sales Decline 5.2%, Nestlé Waters Taps Into Developing Markets

Washington, D.C.—While sales of Nestlé Waters products in the United States, Canada and Europe decreased 17 percent between 2007 and 2010, the company experienced a 44.8 percent increase in sales in other regions of the world in that period, finds new analysis released today by the national consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch. Hanging on for Pure Life: Why the Strategies Behind Nestlé’s New Bottled Water Brand May be Good for the Company but Bad for Public Water reveals that Nestlé’s expansion into developing markets has curbed its decline among North American and European consumers, leading to an overall sales decline of 12.6 percent world-wide.

“As backlash against bottled water escalates, and many consumers in North America and Europe reject it in favor of the tap, Nestlé is seemingly shifting its strategy to compensate for this revenue loss,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “With Pure Life, Nestlé is targeting a whole new demographic of consumers—those in the developing world.”

With plants in 37 countries, Nestlé hopes to expand its sales in emerging markets by a third within the next decade. Yet over 1.1 billion people around the world lack access to clean drinking water; Nestlé’s new emphasis on developing markets also suggests a strategy of capitalizing on the global water crisis.

“Bottled water is not a viable long-term solution to delivering water to consumers in developing nations. Where are those who cannot afford bottled water supposed to turn to access potable water?” asked Hauter.

Nestlé’s focus on its Pure Life brand reflects the bottled water industry’s shift towards sourcing from municipal water supplies, rather than spring water sources. Between 2005 and 2009 the overall volume of tap water bottled by the industry in the U.S. increased by 66 percent while the volume of spring water increased by only nine percent. Today, nearly half of all bottled water sold in the U.S. comes from municipal supplies.

“Despite years of running roughshod over community concerns about its bottling, Nestlé is still bent on wresting water rights from rural Americans,” said Leslie Samuelrich, chief of staff with corporate watchdog Corporate Accountability International. “But these figures are an indication there is a horizon nearing for Nestlé’s abuses in small town America, though its shifting practices promise ongoing challenges to public water worldwide.”

The report also reveals that in the U.S., Pure Life posted an 18 percent growth in sales between 2008 and 2009 while every other leading bottled water brand saw sales decline, and overall industry sales dropped five percent. Nestlé increased advertising expenditures on Pure Life in recent years—investing $9.7 million on ads for the brand in the U.S. in 2009, a 3000 percent increase since 2004.

Hanging on for Pure Life: Why the Strategies Behind Nestlé’s New Bottled Water Brand May be Good for the Company but Bad for Public Water is available here

Contact: Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-2500, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org.

Food & Water Europe is the European programme of Food & Water Watch, a nonprofit organisation based in the United States. Food & Water Europe champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profits before people and advocate for a democracy that improves people's lives and protects our environment. https://www.foodandwatereurope.org