By Jill Culora

It’s official: bottled water is now America’s favorite drink! By volume, bottled water outsold carbonated soft drinks in 2016 for the first time in history, making it the largest beverage category in the United States. According to the Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC), sales of bottled water grew by 10 percent in 2016, reaching $16 billion (wholesale) and consumption grew by 8.6 percent to 12.8 billion gallons. In addition, per-capita consumption was up 7.7 percent in 2016, with every person in America drinking an average of 39.3 gallons of bottled water last year. BMC also reported that bottled water has increased its ‘share of stomach’ of the overall beverage market from 14.4 percent in 2009 to 20.6 percent in 2016. Carbonated soft drinks hold the second position, with 20.1 percent, reflecting a clear trend of consumers increasingly choosing healthy, convenient, zero-calorie bottled water instead of sugar- sweetened beverages.

In conjunction with announcing this important news in online and traditional media outlets, IBWA launched a social media toolkit campaign for its members. The Bottled Water Is No.1 for a Reason toolkit provided members with a variety of Facebook posts, Instagram images, Pinterest pins, Twitter tweets, web posters and the association’s press release, which members were encouraged to share online with their customers, legislators, friends and family. Campaign materials thanked consumers for choosing healthy hydration and identified some of the many reasons consumers choose bottled water over other packaged beverages. The toolkit helped streamline IBWA member participation in promoting this exciting industry milestone.

Research and polling conducted for the IBWA, indicate that people are continuing to make the switch from other packaged drinks to bottled water for many reasons, including:

  • Bottled water is a healthy packaged drink choice. It tastes great, is refreshing and is convenient for on-the-go lifestyles.
  • Bottled water has trusted safety and quality and is comprehensively regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with a proven record of safety.
  • Bottled water is sold in containers that are 100-percent recyclable. It has the lowest water- and energy-use ratios of all packaged beverages, with a tiny water-use footprint. The entire industry uses less than 0.011 percent of all water used in the United States each year.
  • Bottled water containers use much less PET plastic than soft-drink containers (9.25 grams versus 23.9 grams, on average for 16.9-ounce containers). Soda needs a thicker plastic container due to its carbonation.

IBWA’s response to anti-bottled water groups
In recent years, there has been an increase in the amount of false or misleading information about the environmental impact of bottled water plants. While consumers, community members, government officials and other concerned stakeholders may have reasonable questions and concerns about any commercial or industrial activity taking place in their cities and towns, activist groups have seized upon this issue as an opportunity to attack the bottled water industry. Their stated objective is to prevent bottled water companies from siting, permitting and re-permitting bottled water plants and is aimed at both groundwater and public water source bottling facilities. These actions are often aimed at large bottled water companies; however, many of their proposals would also impact small and mid-size bottlers. This was the case in one community in Oregon, where voters in Hood County approved a ballot initiative that prevents bottled water companies that use more than 1,000 gallons per day from operating in the county. This small water-use amount covers almost all bottlers.

While anti-bottled water groups have seen some success going into communities and effectively leveraging well-coordinated strategies with emotionally charged claims, IBWA and its members continue to try to balance the conversation with industry and environmental facts. The discussions center on issues of water use, the acquisition and sale of so-called public or free water in the commercial market, regulatory oversight of groundwater access and the alleged negative environmental and social impacts of the bottled water industry, including biodiversity loss and community safety. Anti-bottled water groups perpetuate false claims that are built around fear, conspiracy and corporatization, and directly tie them to the siting, permitting or re-permitting of bottled water plants.

In response, IBWA formed a Plant Siting and Permitting Working Group that is developing a campaign to provide advocacy materials based on facts. Members can use these materials to combat local efforts, respond to any anti-bottled water industry media stories, step up aggressive social media efforts, reach out to respected third-party organizations to seek their support and work with state and regional bottled water and business associations on this issue. Bottled water companies have a long and deeply held tradition of effectively and responsibly protecting and managing the earth’s vital water resources. Having long-term, sustainable, protected and naturally recharged water sources is the single most important aspect of the bottled water business. The bottled water industry is a very small water user.

The safety of BPA
IBWA continues to actively defend the safety of bisphenol A (BPA), which is in the polycarbonate plastic that is used in three- and five-gallon water cooler bottles. In recent months, IBWA has flagged and distributed to its members several BPA studies, including a study published by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment (MOE) that found concerns over BPA are not warranted. Japan is not the only country where exposure to BPA has been demonstrated to be extremely low. A series of biomonitoring studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has demonstrated low exposures in the US population and a recent study on pregnant women in France showed similar results. Most recently, a new literature review study, Derivation of an Oral Maximum Allowable Dose Level (MADL) for Bisphenol A by Julie E. Goodman, PhD, et al., concludes that an oral MADL of 157 ug/day for BPA protects consumers. This is very useful information for bottled water companies in

California because the state added BPA to its Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause reproductive toxicity in 2015. The state, however, has not yet determined an oral MADL for BPA.

California’s Center for Environmental Health (CEH) filed a lawsuit against a bottled water company and a retailer alleging that they violated Proposition 65 by failing to warn consumers that they may be exposed to BPA through the consumption of water bottled in three- and five-gallon polycarbonate plastic containers. This litigation is an important issue for the bottled water industry, particularly for those companies that do business in California. As such, IBWA has created a task force to assist member companies by communicating the facts about the safety of BPA and defending it at both the state and federal levels.

And hot off the press, a new study to be published in the November 2017 issue of Environmental Pollution, reviewed data illustrating the exposure of world populations to BPA and concluded that most BPA intakes in the nations studied were well below the 50 ug/kg body weight/day limit used by various international health agencies. American Chemistry Council’s Senior Director of the Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group, Steve Hentges, PhD, reviewed this study and noted: “The results may surprise you: ‘[i]t is evident that the national and global estimated human BPA daily intakes in this study are two to three orders of magnitude lower than that of the TDI [Tolerable Daily Intake] … recommended by several countries.’ In other words, actual exposure to BPA is hundreds to thousands times below the safe intake limit.”

FSMA deadlines
As a critical deadline looms, IBWA has stepped up its efforts to assist members in complying with FDA’s new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). By September 18, most small and mid-sized bottled water companies must comply with FDA’s final rules for Current Good Manufacturing Practices, Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventative Controls for Human Food. Among other things, these new rules require food facilities to have preventative controls-qualified individuals (PCQIs) on staff. To help members comply with this new requirement, IBWA conducted numerous PCQI training workshops in various locations around the United States last year and is holding additional workshops in 2017.

These 2.5-day workshops provide both member and non-member attendees an opportunity to become a PCQI for their facility(ies), in compliance with the new Preventive Controls Rule. The workshops are run by a Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance (FSPCA)-trained Lead Instructor (FSPCA is an alliance of government, academia and industry whose mission is to assist with FSMA implementation in the food industry) and train individuals in the development and application of risk-based preventive controls. These include preparation of the food safety plan and validation of the preventive controls. IBWA encourages all bottled water producers to participate in PCQI training and, as such, it has invited non-IBWA members to sign up for these workshops. In addition, IBWA is aware of concerns over the cost of travel and training for small and mid-sized bottlers, so it is scheduling workshops at low-cost venues, as much as possible.

Looking ahead
BMC predicts that bottled water will continue to build upon it growth history and gain more market share. The research company even suggests that, by the turn of the century, per capita consumption of bottled water could reach 50 gallons. As consumers continue to increasingly choose bottled water as their healthy hydration beverage, IBWA will continue to work hard to create a favorable business and public affairs climate for the bottled water industry, as well as to protect and advance the interests of all our member companies.

About the author

Jill Culora is Vice President of Communications for IBWA. She holds a Post-Baccalaureate Degree in journalism from the University of King’s College and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in political science from Dalhousie University.

About the organization
The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is the authoritative source of information about all types of bottled waters, including spring, mineral, purified, artesian and sparkling. Founded in 1958, IBWA’s membership includes US and international bottlers, distributors and suppliers. IBWA is committed to working with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates bottled water as a packaged food product, to set comprehensive and stringent standards for safe, high-quality bottled water products. In addition to FDA regulations, IBWA member bottlers must adhere to the IBWA Bottled Water Code of Practice, which mandates additional standards and practices that in some cases are more stringent than federal and state regulations. A key feature of the IBWA Bottled Water Code of Practice is a mandatory annual plant inspection by an independent, third-party organization. IBWA is also a supporter of the Drink Up initiative, which encourages Americans to drink more water, more often—whether from the tap, a filter or in a bottle. Choosing water is always the healthy choice.


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