Footprint Blog


Posted in Comment by foodservicefootprint on April 21, 2009


The whole water debate sits very uncomfortably. I feel it is simplistic to hop on the band wagon of water shortages in the third world and it is also very easy to criticise the logistics of bottling water and actually delivering it to restaurant tables, not to mention recycling issues. There are commercial realities but overall, I do feel these are being addressed. However, in my heart of hearts I cannot help but think that the fact is that there are thousands of water sources in this country (many of which undiscovered) that give consumers access to probably the most natural consumable this country has to offer and let’s not forget that our water is probably of the best quality in Europe. Furthermore, these water sources allow the maximisation of agricultural land and have created employment in demographically challenged areas.

Whilst I can see the virtues in drinking tap water, I think we have to find a balance! Were the bottled water industries to disappear, it would be devastating to many regions in this country and whilst we talk about provenance and local sourcing, I think we have to be careful not to tip the balanace. Bottling water is nothing new and has been occuring for centuries, yet bottling water commercially has not. 

 I think retail has got a great deal more to answer for than those few native brands that supply the foodservice industry.

Below is a blog written on The Guardian’s website by Rebecca Smithers last month in aid of UN World Water Day

Bottled water sales drop off !

‘The consumer backlash against expensive, bottled water is gathering momentum, according to two related studies this week which reveal that more of us are content with that plain old, dirt cheap stuff that comes straight out of a tap.

First of all, the UK’s restaurant-goers overwhelmingly prefer to choose tap water over bottled, according to a brand new survey issued to tie in with UN World Water Day 2009, which fell on 22 March.

The research, commissioned by international charity, WaterAid reveals that tap water is the preferred choice for 63% of people when they dine out. Over 23.5 million people prefer to order tap water with their meals rather than bottled. Yet despite this, one in four people surveyed said they have felt pressured to order bottled water when dining out.

More and more UK restaurants are offering tap water to diners as standard, which is already the norm in the US. But you still often have to ask for it – with the associated embarrassment that can cause. WaterAid’s drinking water survey also shows that women are more likely to choose tap water, while men are more inclined to have bottled water with their meal. And where people live also seems to make a difference – people in Greater London and Scotland are the most likely to choose bottled water, whereas those dining out in the South East and East Anglia are happy with a good old jug of tap.

The popularity of bottled water soared in the 1990s and the early 2000s, but is now s-o-o-o yesterday, according to figures from market research company TNS. Last year the on-going year-on-year increase in sales was halted and sales actually fell by 9%. The Guardian has highlighted what an expensive and unnecessary adornment bottled water is, even singling out Bling H2O– in frosted glass bottles adorned with Swarowski crystals and a mere snip at $55 a bottle – as the ultimate eco-unfriendly product. Tap water costs around 0.1p a litre at home. Surely it’s a no-brainer?

Which do you drink – bottled or tap? Which restaurants would you single out for their refreshing attitude to offering tap water, and which are still swimming against the consumer current?’

Your comments on this would be hugely appreciated as we at Foodservice Footprint would love to shed some light on one of the elixirs of the industry.

 The following links may be of interest:

2 Responses to 'Alchemy?'

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  1. Patrick Cooper said,

    There is so much to write on this subject to say why I would choose bottled water over tap water everytime when I am out at a restaurant, but for the moment I will only focus on three reasons:

    1) I do not like the taste of tap water, especially in London. If I am spending my hard earned money at a restaurant I expect tasty food, fruity wine and water with no taste.
    2) Good water companies are stewards of our countryside. They have to be to ensure the integrity of their sources of water.
    3) All the best UK water companies appear to be based in very rural locations and therefore act as a source of continuing local employment in areas where traditional farming has been hit badly over the last few years.

    • Max Mayer said,

      Mr Cooper,

      Could it be that the demand for tap water is driven by the mass bottled bad quality water served in multiple foodservice outlets or the over inflated prices in a credit crunch?

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