Brandweek is reporting that bottled water sales grew by less than 1% in the first six months of 2008. That's quite a comedown for the industry that was growing in double digits in the early years of the decade. Just last year the Beverage Marketing Corporation was predicting the U.S. bottled water market would grow 7.4% this year.
There are lots of reasons for the decline. Magazine articles and books critiqued the colossal waste of the $16 billion American water industry. The National Resource Defense Council issued a lengthy report on mislabeling and impurities in bottled water.
Then there were worries about the bottles themselves. CNN noted that less a quarter of all those plastic bottles gets recycled. We've worried about the 1.5 million barrels of oil that the National Conference of Mayors says is used to make all the plastic bottles for our bottled water. For a while some were worried about drinking from bottles with PET (polyethylene terephthalate). But now we've switched to worrying about bottles with BPA (bisphenol-a). Two U.S. agencies issued reports, one saying BPA is fine, one saying it alters hormones.
But for all that my favorite reason for people buying less bottled water (and per person it would be less just because of population growth) is that people are wising up. The recession is making people pay attention to how much money they've been blowing on bottled water all these years.