I came to England from India four months ago. My first observation in the country was that the people either drank water straight from the tap or stocked bottled water in their homes. A visit to the supermarket revealed how big a commodity bottled water is in the UK. Back home, we follow the tradition of boiling water before we drank it. It is more normal to fill your glass from an earthen pot or kettle than a sealed bottle. Most of the people in my school and neighbourhood consumed only bottled water.

The way bottled-water manufacturers market the commodity is interesting. Setting apart a Nike from an Adidas or a Panasonic television set from a Sony is easier because there is scope of flirting with the models’ design and packaging. But how much can one really do with plain drinking water? Considering that the buyers for bottled water has doubled in the past four decades, there surely are many.
The main point most consumers look for is the source of the water. Spring water is believed to be the best quality since it is bottled at the origin of the spring where it is most pure and natural. In 2004, Coca Cola had to withdraw its bottled water brand Dasani from the UK because it was merely ‘purified tap water’ and not natural mineral or spring water that consumers in the UK had looked for. The product was a big failure in the UK even though its sales had soared in the USA.

After this aspect is taken care of, marketers bank on the packaging based on convenience. For instance, there are half pint bottles and one pint bottles that one can buy ig he is travelling of gallons that can be kept at home. In the USA, they have ‘aquapods’ especially packaged for the tiffin boxes of school children.

The location of bottling is also something that customers are getting aware of. Some consumers choose local brands that are bottled in their region over those that are transported from faraway places. Like we feel comfortable with the local food we have grown up eating, drinking water bottled in one’s own land also scores over others.

It is unlikely that the bottled water business would fail if you choose your marketing strategy according to the resources available to you. Like people have moved from preparing fresh food everyday to canned food and ‘healthy packaged food’, pure and safe bottled water is as much a reality.

– Mitali


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