Thursday, 20 December 2007

The water in Majorca don't taste like cloud juice

On this week's Dragon's Den, a pair of young inventors pitched a revolutionary product that could really save lives. The idea in development is a water transporter on wheels which acts not only as a vessel for getting the vital liquid from one place to another, but also filters the water via reverse osmosis powered by the revolution of the wheels. All five Dragons were so impressed that they each put £10k into the pot to support the project. During the polished presentation, an interesting question came up.

"How much does a unit cost to make?"

"About £20"

"Is that affordable in places like Bangladesh?"

"No, to the end user that price is prohibitively expensive, but we're aiming our product at support networks and charities like the Red Cross."

So, £20 makes a potentially life saving product prohibitively expensive in developing nations.

A few weeks ago I read an article in the Observer about the £25bn bottled water market and it nearly had me screaming my angry head off on a slow-moving, freezing cold train home from Worcester. In my eyes, bottled water is right up there with (but not quite surpassing) celebrity perfumes as triumphs of marketing over need. If celebrity perfume is Satan's sweat, then bottled water is his spit. Sadly nowadays, it's not just drinking mineral water that says something about you, it's the brand of mineral water that matters (apparently).

Proof that we're living in a ridiculously spoilt society comes in the form of a number of premium waters hitting the market, complete with ludicrous marketing spiel to justify the exorbitant price tag. King Island Cloud Juice (d'you see what they did there?) from Tasmania is "Rainwater bottled from 'the cleanest weather in the world" and a snip at £9 a bottle. Elsenham at £12 a bottle is "The perfect accompaniment to fried food and full-bodied wines, Elsenham's artesian spring water is rich in minerals and low in sodium. Around 20 years old and sourced from a deep chalk aquifer. Totally pure." Bling H20 is $40 a bottle but it does come with Swarovski crystals on the bottle. Oh that's ok then.

Bling H20: the water for arses

Who buys into this nonsense? What sad individual thinks that being seen with a bottle of Fiji water is cool? How can this market exist when so many countries don't even have regular access to any form of clean water? Why does the restaurant industry continue to shove bottled water down consumers' necks with the near obligatory opening gambit of " Would you prefer still or sparkling for the table?" I was happy to see that Wahaca donates all the profits from bottled water sales to clean water projects and that should be an example to everyone. A carafe of filtered tap water should be readily available on every restaurant table so that the diner has to ask specially for bottled water if they want it. They do it in Australia so why not here?

So what next in this celebrity obsessed, profit hungry world? Well for me the future is as clear as a glass of Perrier. Celebrity Water. Katie Price and Peter Andre will be out in the back garden with their divining rods before you know it. DVB will start blending the water from their estates in LA and Hertfordshire and produce a "For Him" and "For Her" range. Russian oligarchs will leave Kensington and Chelsea and start buying large swathes of Georgian Spa towns like Bath and Cheltenham. And Bling H20 will be taken over by P Diddy who will filter his own urine and market it as "Essence" by Sean John. Kate Moss will then follow suit but will skip the filtration stage and sell her water complete with performance enhancing minerals.

And then we will all wake up, go to that odd metal thing hanging over the kitchen sink and pour ourselves a glass of tap water, and realise that it's all been one big nightmare.


Joy said...

Here here. I am so fed up with the death stares I get from waiters when I answer their still/sparkling question with "just tap please". You can always tell the really sadistic ones because they pretend they can't hear you and make you repeat it. I have left a couple of London restaurants after they've snootily told me it's "not policy" to give jugs of tap water - oh please!

Pete said...

I think my new strategy will be:

"Still or sparkling, Sir"

"Does sparkling water come out of a tap?"


"Well there's your answer then."

olliew said...

couldn't agree more about the dreadful new fashion for "trendy" bottled water. however there are some that are doing some good....One Water is a fantastic idea where ALL profits from the sales of their bottled water go directly to pay for water pumps in countries in desparate need of clean water....