Upmarket water – a consumer’s perspective

Those of you as disillusioned as I am will find you are rarely surprised by the pseudo-comical ways in which companies strive to convince us to buy their products. In recent years the upward trend has been the retroactive inflation of non-alcoholic beverages, including water. I will state for the record that water is nearly as abundant on this earth as the bullshit marketing departments come up with whilst trying to offload the stuff onto the consumer. Water, if you recall from middle school chemistry is two parts hydrogen – literally the most abundant element in the universe – and one part oxygen, of which we also have plenty. Yet when we absentmindedly pull a bottle of water off the rack at our local supermarket you are getting fucked with your pants on.
As I said, that doesn’t surprise me in the least – having a profound understanding of how readily greed manifests itself in even the most well intentioned among us – and similarly realizing that most of you don’t seem to give a damn.
When gas price in the US broke $3 I am certain a secret meeting was convened in the White House situation room, as the President and his national security counsel discussed how to handle the seemingly imminent violent overthrow of the federal government. We will move right past the fact that gas prices are far higher in almost every other 1st-world nation, and that water is more expensive still. Odd, when you think your V8 probably won’t do so well on the stuff. (Then again I concede that neither will you if you start drinking 98 octane straight from the nozzle)
I think soft drink manufacturers got sick of watching people pay several hundred dollars for three quarters of a liter of wine – a measurement better know as “a bottle” – and decided they wanted in on that action. Short of lacing water with vodka and proclaiming it the latest thing, they did the next best thing: change absolutely nothing about the product except the price. Diabolical! But worse still was the consumer reaction: not a word in protest.

It all really began in earnest when the marketing department at Voss – a Norwegian upmarket water for yubbos – realized they could market their product right along side of much more expensive upmarket drinks, like 24-year-old whiskeys, and no matter how much they inflated the price, a bottle of water would still appear cheap by comparison. Their scheme worked brilliantly – based in no small part due to the fact that people with lots of money tend to waste it like the bills have an expiration date. Yubbos were buying Voss by the gallon in clubs, snooty restaurants, and as a chaser nearly as expensive as the similarly inflated shots at stylish vodka bars. Immediately other companies followed suit, rebranding their age-old fizzy drinks and stale waters alike to appeal to people with more money than sense. Within a few short years, water had gone from something your dog drinks from a bowl to something that costs more per gallon than gasoline although the latter doesn’t fall from the sky by the bucket load. (Although gasoline clouds would make air travel considerably more interesting)
Water is now being served in crystal cognac glasses so posh they make Posh Spice look like Martha Steward. Water, it seems, has been reborn.
Going back to the local supermarket, there is some evidence to support this theory. Right alongside products of less enlightened companies you will find ‘gourmet’ waters whose prices have long since breached the upper atmospheres of my tolerance. Now I admit water can have taste and that some do in fact taste better than others, but a can of coke costs less and tastes a hell of a lot better. With water turning trendy and riding the proverbial coat tails of all things ‘biological’ and devoid of calories, this is to be expected. What of value for money however? Sure the cost of collection, filtration, bottling, and transportation are all passed onto the consumer meaning lower yield, foreign waters will tend to be slightly more expensive than domestic ones, including the often overlooked water that flows from your taps. The mark-up however no longer has any real bearing on these additional costs. I have included some pictures of water available at my local supermarket and I think we can all agree that when you take the salt out of water from the pacific ocean you’re not exactly giving people something special; the pacific is the largest body of water on this planet which, ironically is constantly fed fresh water from rivers and rain. Taking the salt out in Hawaii and marketing it as fancy drinking water at a grossly inflated price is moronic but no more so than coughing up with $3.50 for a tiny bottle. Still worse than all of that are companies who sell perfectly ordinary water from some fetid body of water in New Jersey and stick it in a fancy bottle in an effort to justify the price they always wanted to charge but had no earthly reason to. The result, as pictured below, is a half liter bottle of water that costs the better part of 6 dollars US. For those of you frantically doing the math, that’s well over $20 a gallon. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

My fear is this is all going somewhere terrible in the long run. With the world population growing fast and fresh water already a highly prized commodity in many developing nations, will the next war be about potable water rather than oil? I fear there may come a time when we will kill by the millions our fellow man just so we can quench our thirst, but before that happens, the water companies are trying to satiate their greed.
Next time you buy a bottle of water, ask yourself: “what is this really worth?”


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