Ailing bottled water industry puts faith in Munro & Forster

The body that promotes the controversial bottled water industry has called in its first external PR support to combat an environmental backlash.

Debate: bottled versus tap water
Debate: bottled versus tap water

The Natural Hydration Council – set up by Nestlé Wat­ers, Highland Spring and Danone Waters last September – has handed a six-figure account to Munro & Forster.

The move comes at a tough time for the bottled water sector, which is perceived to be expensive and environmentally unsound.

Bottled water sales were down nine per cent last year (source: TNS). The industry appears to be suffering as a result of campaigns such as one the Evening Standard ran last year to make drinking tap water in restaurants socially acceptable.

But Natural Hydration Council director Jeremy Clarke argued a dip in sales did not mean more people were drinking tap water. Rather, they were turning to obesity-causing soft drinks, he claimed.

‘The heart of the challenge is to reframe the debate,’ said  Clarke. ‘There’s an assumption that bottled and tap water are substitutable. They are not.’

He added: ‘Bottled water is the cheapest, greenest, health­iest drink on the shelf. It is a packaged beverage and must be understood in that context.’

Munro & Forster will att­empt to stop bottled water ­being compared with tap ­water. It will also focus on re-educating consumers about the benefits of drinking water, as Clarke argued consumers had become ‘fuzzy’ about what they should be drinking.

Further, the agency will handle stakeholder engagement, reaching out to the Government and environmental groups, and lobbying the health community to produce clearer guidance.

Munro & Forster won the brief after a four-way pitch against Seventy Seven PR, Burson-Marsteller and Tonic Life.

The Natural Hydration Council’s co-founders represent water brands Evian, Vittel, Buxton, Perrier and Volvic.


Negative headlines

‘Bottled water is an eco no-no’ – The Sun
7 March 2009

‘Death by water cooler’ – The Sun
18 September 2008

‘Holyrood ministers waste money on bottled water’ – The Sunday Times
30 March 2008

‘Bottled water is immoral’ – The Daily Telegraph
17 February 2008

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