Saturday, November 5, 2016

Going Global: Bottled Water Awards in Prague

Overlooking the historic and stunningly beautiful city of Prague in the Czech Republic, the 13th Annual Global Bottled Water Congress and Awards, held in October, were flush with new bottled waters, new concepts and innovation. As professional water judge I was thrilled to be asked to be a judge at this years event.

The city view of Prague from the Congress

I have been a water judge at the Berkeley Springs International WaterTasting for a decade, so when the organizer of the Prague event, Zenith Global Ltd. based in Bath England, asked if I would consider being a judge, I did not hesitate. I judged entries in multiple categories including taste, package design, brand innovation, new closure technology (bottle caps), and even social media campaigns. There were 100 entries from 25 countries including places you would expect like the US, Europe, Australia, and the Czech Republic itself, but also lesser-known places like Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname, Oman and Morocco – proof that bottled water is truly global.

With Nick Crossland (L) of Zenith at the Awards
In spite of criticism about bottled water, sales are up across the globe with predicted growth between 7-9%, according to Zenith. You may not think too much about water, but it is nonetheless a fascinating liquid and what is often overlooked is that the water we drink has within it the residual fingerprint of where it came from. Water from Russia is vastly different than water from Chile, or North Dakota. The hydro-geologic process ensures that pure waters consumed or bottled at their source retain the specifics of the rock, sand, limestone, granite, volcanic compounds, and everything else the water filters through, making that water truly unique.

One of the many vendors who attend
Not all bottled water is from a naturally occurring source of course; some is municipal water that has been re-treated and packaged for sale. Regardless, according to data compiled by Zenith from 2011 to 2016 consumption of bottled water was up 100 billion liters globally outpacing tea, milk and coffee. The awards certainly help to provide support for their market share as in the taste category as Lofoten Water from Norway was the winner for Best Natural Water Taste. Best Flavored Water Taste went to Mattoni Magnesia Red from Karlovarské Minerální Vody based in the Czech Republic.

But the Congress was not just awards, it was also a place for thought provoking discussion. Questions were brought up that, given the current state of the migration crisis in Europe does that help or hurt sales of bottled water? It’s easy to forget that as migrants flee war-torn areas, one of the basics they need is water. And where do they get water as they are constantly on the move? The eventual promise of financially active migrants, once situated into their new homes in a new country, could provide many future opportunities for bottled water companies. Another interesting take on the Congress was series of immediate polls conducted live with the attendees. One such poll asked what was more important about bottled water; healthy hydration, water source, taste, or promoting a lack of chemical compounds in water? Surprisingly 75% of attendees said “healthy hydration” was the most important message, even over taste. As a writer who covers water, a water judge, wine and spirits judge and food writer for 10 years, taste is of the utmost importance to me, but alas, not to everyone.

The dramatic and historic Charles Bridge
Another poll posited what was the greatest threat to the bottled water industry? Answers included waste and litter, access to natural water sources, comprehensive recycling and the like. But surprisingly 27% of respondents, a slim majority, said the constant media criticism about the bottled water industry was the biggest concern and threat to the industry overall. Yet in spite of a prevalent media bias (you can see a glaring example of this in my response to a Washington Post article HERE), consumers make the irrefutable verdict with their wallets, and this is why sales of bottled water are still on the rise regardless of an unfriendly media. Our global population will always need bottled water drawn from safe and secure sources, and the Global Bottled Water Congress provides a chance for bottled water to get the recognition and respect it deserves.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading your work. I'll come back for more

    Keep up the good work :) from CWR