Tuesday, 11 March 2008


Some time ago I put up a post about Aquafina, the artificially mineralised water from Pepsi, after compliant local journalists were herded around the Aquafina plant here in the UAE to be shown that it is, indeed, ‘pure’ water from ‘an underground natural source’. The resulting coverage represented hardly more than a faint 'baa' in response.

The problem was that the USA, where the Aquafina product was conceived, had seen a rising tide of negative media coverage regarding the fact that Aquafina was tap water that had been purified and then had been artificially mineralised using a mineral mixture perfected by the scientists over at Pepsico. Artificially flavoured, coloured and sweetened foods are accepted as the norm in America – but it would appear that even an American sensibility can be offended by the concept of an artificially mineralised mineral water.

Consumer protection bodies in the USA are strongly of the opinion, bless them, that labelling bottles of water with blue mountains, a table of mineral composition similar to labels found on pure bottled spring water, and the words ‘pure drinking water’ did not quite tell the consumer the whole story. That, for instance, ‘tap water’ might be nearer the truth. You’d be tempted to agree with them, no?

This had, in turn, prompted the local bottler here in the UAE to respond to the situation, in typically brilliant style, by refusing to admit that it was a problem at all and taking media for a tour around their bottling plant where, it was strongly asserted, pure water from an underground source was being purified, mineral balanced and bottled. The full story from back then is to be found here, along with the finer linguistic points that showed the entire press trip to have been a shameful attempt to mislead media – a media, incidentally, that was all too ready to desist from giving the story the really hard edge it deserved – and still does.

It is a great pity that people can still get away with behaviour like this in the Middle East, but it is a fact. If your appalling behaviour is challenged, stick your fingers in your ears and shout 'lalalalala' at your challenger and the problem will soon go away. The issue is that all too often that is precisely what does happen.

Last year, the consumer rights group that has lead the effort to ‘out’ Aquafina, Corporate Accountability International, succeeded in getting Pepsico to change the labelling of Aquafina to say ‘Public Water Source’. I’ve been keeping a vague eye out on the local water to see if it would change its labelling in compliance with Pepsico, but it hasn’t. Which rather struck me as a bit naughty until I checked out the Corporate Accountability International website for an update – and found that the organisation has embarked on a further campaign to highlight the fact that Pepsico has not, indeed, changed its labelling as it had, apparently, promised to do.

So do feel to pop along to the CAI site and use their handy 'send an email to Pepsico' thingy if you think we would all be better off, if not without artificially mineralised water, then at least truthful labelling of a product based on what is, in fact, municipal tap water.


i*maginate said...

"stick your fingers in your ears and shout 'lalalalala' at your challenger and the problem will soon go away"

loooooool I like it.

i*maginate said...

oooooh I read your article about the social networking thing. Great write-up! Oooh and where have I heard of Spot On PR..rings a bell...i'll look it up.

I didn't know you are in BR! Who woulda guessed! You must be one of only a handful in the local industry who actually has a brain!

Keefieboy said...

A long long time ago, I worked for Courage Brewery in the UK. Part of the induction program was a visit to the Beer Factory beside the M4 outside Reading. Since water is a crucial component of beer (no, it's true!), they took great care to first of all, chemically neutralize the original source - probably eau de tap - and then'Burtonize' it, i.e. add stuff that made the water chemically identical to the muck you get in Burton-on-Trent. Things like pellets of Irish peat, a bucketful of ground-up pigeons, a couple of supermarket trolleys and some dead fish. That's the secret of why their beer tasted so good.

alexander said...

Keefie. You're kidding, right?

Keefieboy said...

Alexander: I may have invented some of the ingredients, but the principle is true.

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