The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

breakin' it  down
If you live in the U.S., chances are you recognize at least one of the bottled water brands listed above. You can see how they stack up nationally. Pepsi owns Aquafina, Coke owns Dasani, and Nestle owns pretty much the rest of them. The beverage industry is cognizant of all this, and is happy with the market trends.

What's remarkable about these numbers is how quickly Pepsi and Coke have taken the lead in the water game--their water brands didn't even exist five years ago. The big reason for this, in my view, is that they pitched their agua as national brands, in stark contrast to the other brands here, which are all regional. Even with the Big Two's continued success, the regional brands are still around in force: Poland Springs is dominant in the Northeast, Deer Park in the Midwest, Arrowhead on the Pacific Coast. But I'm betting they'll get reduced to small niches inside of ten years, at the expense of Aquafina and Dasani, and any other national brands that might get launched.

The big question is, why did the older brands stick with the regional approach so long? They're all owned by huge conglomerates, so they should have had the resources to establish themselves nationally. I'm guessing it took a long while (a decade or so) to drive the idea of buying bottled water into the American public. The most effective way to do this was to start in urban markets, which would be more receptive for a number of reasons (cosmopolitanism, poorer tap water quality, etc.). This would probably be easier to pull off by promoting regionalized brands. In any case, they're now eating Coke's and Pepsi's dust.

What brought on my interest? I was watching some old 90s rerun on TV, and I noticed the conspicuous presence of Naya bottled water. It reminded me that Naya was probably the first major bottled water to establish itself in a big way in the States, or at least the Northeast (the bottle stuff has been business-as-usual in Europe for a few decades). It occurred to me that it seems to have been drowned out of the market by 2002; notice that it doesn't rank at all on this list. Weird, because I can still remember it doing extensive business, with requisite marketing and all that, only a couple of years ago. I'm sure it's still big in its native Canada. No doubt, it'll try to relaunch itself in the States at some point.