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SANBWA trends

SANBWA: Health concerns major driver for growth in bottled water

According to market research firm Canadean Research, consumption of bottled water will top 233 billion liters while carbonated beverage consumption will amount to 227 billion liters. Just five years ago, bottled water consumption was 170 billion liters, compared to 215 billion liters of fizzy soda drinks.

The reasons for this growth have been firmly laid at the door of health concerns.

As consumers in Western countries turn toward healthy lifestyles and healthy diets, bottled water is increasingly becoming the drink of choice. Meanwhile, soda’s appeal has diminished as scientific studies link its high-sugar content to obesity and diabetes risk.

But in countries like China and India consumers are buying water because they cannot find safe sources of water elsewhere. China is currently the world’s biggest consumer of bottled water, followed by the USA and India in 2nd and 3rd places respectively.

“A recent study by China’s Ministry of Land and Resources found that out of almost 5 000 monitoring sites in over 200 cities across the country, 60% of them had groundwater that was polluted. In India, a lack of water treatment infrastructure and lax industrial waste standards have led to severe pollution of the country’s rivers,” writes Lu.

But several Chinese media exposés revealed that national authorities have lax quality standards for the bottled water industry, with no tests conducted for toxins like mercury, silver, or formaldehyde. Meanwhile, tap water had far more stringent regulations, with 106 different quality tests.

How does South Africa compare?

In terms of South African legislation, bottled water is ‘water packaged for human consumption’ and it is therefore classified as a foodstuff. This means it is overseen by the Department of Health.

Legislation and standards for bottled water in South Africa are far stricter than those for municipal water. (

Furthermore, about 80% of bottled water producers belong to the South African National Bottled Water Association (SANBWA), a voluntary standards setting organisation.

SANBWA’s stringent standards were developed over many years and are based on wide review and consultation. This benchmarks favourably against international standards and provides existing and new bottlers with a vision for future improvements by putting six main elements under the spotlight:
• management commitment
• quality systems
• resources (including pre-requisite programs)
• operational controls
• environmental stewardship

According to SANBWA executive director, Charlotte Metcalf, bottled water production in South Africa is actually a very water efficient business in that it has an extremely low ‘water usage’ factor.

She said the South African bottled water industry benchmark is 1.8:1, and there are plants that achieve ratios of as low as 1.3:1 – 1.4:1 by recycling their bottle rinse water.

“Additionally, the total South African national usage of water by the bottled water industry equates to only 22.7 litres/second. Just one gold course uses 18 litres/second for an 18 hole golf course), so the bottled water industry’s use is just slightly more than the equivalent used by one golf course.

“This means that the total volume of water used by the South African bottled water industry in one year could alternatively be used to irrigate one and a half golf courses, a 45 hectare fruit farm or 32 hectares of Lucerne,” said Metcalf.

Source: SANBWA

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