By Joseph K. Koss
IBWA President and CEO Joseph K. Doss gave a hearty welcome to members attending the 48th Annual Convention and Trade Show, then presented a comprehensive report of the year’s activities and achievements. Noting the trade show’s theme, Everyone’s A Winner, he highlighted the most recent numbers indicating sustained industry growth. In 2005, according to Beverage Marketing Corporation, bottled water sales were $10 billion US (wholesale), a 9.2 percent increase from the previous year. Bottled water consumption totaled 7.5 billion gallons (28.4 billion liters), a 10.7 percent increase over 2004.
IBWA represented the industry in over 20 technical meetings with key federal and state regulatory agencies. Active involvement of the association with elected officials has been vital to success in the government relations arena. Doss emphasized the critical importance of bottlers, suppliers and distributors building relationships with elected officials before legislative sessions begin.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified bottled water as a high security risk food product. The security vulnerability assessment for bottled water (known as CARVER + Shock) prepared by IBWA, FDA and state health officials was validated in January by key agencies. A number of areas for further research were identified that will be pursued by FDA and others. In a related action, the FDA issued final record keeping regulations last year to implement the federal bioterrorism law. Large- and medium-size companies must be in compliance with those rules now. Small companies (with less than 10 employees) have until December 11, 2006.
One major issue of concern to the home and office delivery (HOD) segment of the industry related to recording lot numbers on bottles delivered to customers. The FDA had previously stated that HOD bottlers would not have to record that information but issued compliance guidance in September 2005 that reversed that position. As a direct result of IBWA’s efforts, FDA issued further guidance clearly indicating that it will not require bottlers to record lot numbers for HOD products.
Bottled water taxes
Several legislative efforts were mounted in the past year to tax the industry’s products. Six states considered excise, sales or severance taxes (ranging from five to +20 cents per container). The association, with the assistance of its allies, was able to defeat all of the proposals, though it is certain many of the same measures will be introduced again next year.
The FDA standard for bromate in bottled water is 10 parts per billion (ppb). Bottled water recalls during the past few months demonstrated that not all companies have been able to achieve this bromate level. IBWA has prepared several documents and presented many educational seminars to assist members in meeting the FDA standard. In conjunction with members of the disinfectant by-products task force, IBWA continues to work with California officials to obtain some relief from Proposition 65. Under that law, bottled water products with bromate levels as low as one ppb may be required to include a warning label.
Certified Plant Operator program
In 2006, IBWA administered the certified plant operator (CPO) exam to over 130 candidates. To maintain this certification, a CPO must earn at least 18 continuing education units (CEUs) within a three-year period.
Fluoride and bottled water
The media continues to incorrectly report that the increased consumption of bottled water is connected to an increase in cavities in children. Consumers have a choice of fluoridated and non-fluoridated brands. IBWA advised consumers to consult with their dental care provider. In addition, the organization website provides a list of companies that make fluoridated bottled water.
2007 convention and table-top trade show
IBWA’s Board of Directors decided that, based on recommendations from a special task force, it will have a table–top trade show in 2007, to be held at the annual convention during the suppliers’ opening reception. In addition, the annual business meeting, educational sessions and other networking events will take place. In 2008, a regular convention and trade show will be held. IBWA will repeat that pattern (table-top show in odd-numbered years, full trade show in even-numbered years) and is considering a co-location with the Pack Expo show in October 2007.
In conclusion, Doss thanked everyone for their contributions. “Without you, the members (bottlers, suppliers and distributors) none of this could have been accomplished,” he said. “Your hard work on committees, contacting your state and local legislators and regulators and constant commitment to excellence has enabled IBWA to make great strides. I say it every year because it continues to be true.”