(Excerpt of the film, 40s)
Do you know how to turn ordinary water into a billion-dollar business? In Switzerland there’s a company which has developed the art to perfection – Nestlé. This company dominates the global business in bottled water.
Swiss journalist Res Gehringer has investigated this money-making phenomena. Nestlé refused to cooperate, on the pretext that it was “the wrong film at the wrong time”. So Gehringer went on a journey of exploration, researching the story in the USA, Nigeria and Pakistan. His journey into the world of bottled water reveals the schemes and strategies of the most powerful food and beverage company on our planet.
While the world’s population continues to grow at an alarming rate, water is becoming an increasingly scarce commodity. The Swiss film “Bottled Life” documents the booming business with bottled water, by focusing on the global leader in this lucrative multi-billion dollar market – namely, the Nestlé corporation in Switzerland. Nestlé currently controls more than 70 of the world’s bottled water brands, among them Perrier, San Pellegrino and Vittel.
Nestlé’s annual sales of bottled water alone total some CHF 10 billion. And yet the company prefers not to discuss its water business – as Swiss journalist Res Gehriger discovered when researching this documentary film. The Nestlé management refused to give any interviews or assistance or to provide information. But Gehriger persisted, and discovered just how controversial and conflict-laden the company’s international operations are.
TEN THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
- Bottled water is one of the company’s key strategic money makers: Nestlé has an annual turnover of CHF 110 billion – of which almost 10% is derived from the bottled water business.
- Nestlé has achieved world dominance in the bottled water business – by taking over such leading brands as Perrier.
- Nestlé is constantly buying up additional valuable groundwater resources – in order to satisfy the massive demand it has created for bottled water.
- Nestlé is taking advantage of the often out-of-date water rights in many locations by operating to the limits of legality – not only in developing countries but also in the USA and elsewhere in the industrialized world.
- Nestlé spares no effort in exerting financial, legal and political pressure – on anyone campaigning for water ownership as a public property and human right.
- Nestlé is using up precious natural water resources – to create and commercialize “new” water.
- Nestlé promotes bottled water with extensive global marketing and advertising campaigns – undermining awareness for the necessity of a functioning public water supply system.
- Nestlé promotes itself as a benefactor – by donation and PR campaigns at local level. But at the same time it manipulates public opinion into believing that improvements in production and distribution are having a sustainable effect.
- Nestlé creates dependence on bottled water – in particular where public waters supplies are close to collapse, and notably in developing countries.
- Nestlé’s bottled water business is not simply a business like any other – it is a business with the sole natural resource essential for man’s survival.
WHAT IS BOTTLED WATER?
A short and simplified answer to a complicated question:
Natural mineral water
Natural mineral water is water from a geographically and clearly localized spring which fulfils legal requirements concerning mineral content and composition (for example, Perrier or Vittel).
In the United States, spring water is bottled water which may be blended from various springs (as in our film, for example, Poland Spring in the state of Maine). However, it does not qualify as natural or classic mineral water.
In European Union countries bottled water defined as spring water must be filled direct from the source. However less stringent legal requirements apply concerning the mineral composition.
Bottled water companies like Nestlé, Coca Cola or Pepsi Cola often pump water from normal groundwater or buy it from public drinking water supply systems (in our film, for example, Nestlé Pure Life).
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