Gulp! We're paying millions for water
DARRIN FARRANT, CONSUMER REPORTER
Page 3 ( 379 words )
Wednesday, 22 Sep 1999
From section: News
Publication: The Age
With the warmer weather comes the annual surge in drink sales,
and, for more and more people, the best thirst-quencher is an old-fashioned
This decade, Australians have increasingly embraced bottled water.
The national bottled water industry - that's spring, still and
carbonated - is estimated to be worth at least $250 million a year,
and growing by as much as 10 per cent a year. It's a remarkable
trend in a country with some of the cleanest, most drinkable tap
water in the world.
The chief executive of the International Bottled Water Association's
Australian chapter, Mr Tony Gentile, believes demand will keep growing
for at least another decade.
He says the average Australian drinks 30litres of bottled water
a year, well behind the Swiss or Italians, who drink as much as
130 litres. ``These days people have learnt the European habit of
drinking wine for taste and bottled water for thirst, and they have
them at the same time."
He reckons water is being drunk at the expense of beer, coffee
and tea because Australians are now more concerned about their health.
But a spokesman for Coca-Cola Amatil, which owns the Mount Franklin
spring water brand, believes Australians are simply drinking more
fluids. ``We don't think water is seen as a substitute for an alcohol
drink, and soft-drinks are also growing in popularity," he
Regardless, bottled water - a healthy liquid with a sticker attached
- has become trendy in the health, image and label conscious '90s.
Professor Bill Schroder, who specialises in marketing at Monash
University, believes growing consumption is driven by consumers
and not marketing. ``I also think there's a vague concern there
about the health quality of tap water," he says.
Coca-Cola Amatil's spokesman says demand for bottled water is strongest
in warmer regions such as Queensland, and not where tap water has
a notoriously unpopular taste, such as South Australia.
The Australian Consumers Association's food policy officer, Mr
Matt O'Neill, says the health benefits of drinking bottled water
over tap water are minimal. ``Bottled water must be one of the cleverest
gold-mine products, given that all you have to do is go to the tap
and get it free," he says.