While the sun(shine) was reminding us, last weekend, of its its value to the trade, the Mail was clearly working up a silly-season thirst, revealing last weekend that Tesco and Asda were flogging filtered tap water. At 17p for two litres!
Despite its translucent appearance, the history of bottled water is a colourful one. In the 1980s, before benzene brought Perrier almost to its knees, it was a designer accessory brand to rival the Filofax. And in 2004, Coca-Cola ran into trouble after The Grocer revealed that its Dasani brand (referred to in early ads as “bottled spunk”), was filtered from Sidcup tap water - though it was only pulled when the Food Standards Agency found it to contain bromate.
But my personal favourite bottled water story was the blind tasting, in 2007, in which a panel of Masters of wine, sommeliers and wine critics preferred tap water to 20 out of 24 mineral waters, including Bling H2O, from California, the second most expensive at £40 a litre, which came 22nd (to be fair, the bottle was encrusted with Swarovski crystals).
” Some people find it offensive that supermarkets and restaurants sell bottled water I think it’s one of the crowning achievements of the trade”
Adam Leyland, Editor
Times have clearly changed. But let’s get this in perspective. With no claims to be sourced from a spring (Peckham or otherwise), I would argue that, rather than a legal or moral case to answer, Tesco and Asda’s crime was PR-related: Tesco couldn’t get its facts straight while Asda clearly can’t add up (a Brita filter on Asda’s website costs £16, or £10.67 at Tesco.com).
Some people find it offensive that supermarkets and restaurants sell bottled water at all, when UK tap water is of such high quality. I think it’s one of the crowning achievements of the trade. What I find offensive is that the cost of mineral water is more expensive than beer or cider. Even though many beers and ciders are actually made using mineral water.
With two of these ‘offenders’ meanwhile involved in more positive developments - Tesco signing up to traffic lights, and Coca-Cola adopting the BRC’s recycling label - this week should be remembered not for another story about water but as a potential watershed moment for not one but two labelling schemes. Or as the tabloids might say: Water Week!