It’s All About the Bottle

Alkaline, asparagus, cucumber, cactus, coconut, maple, pitch birch, electrolyte-infused, high pH – what happened to regular water? Where it used to only being common place to see athletes carrying gallon jugs of water, it’s now common to see a variety of people carrying different bottled waters everywhere. The Wall Street Journal recently covered this explosive trend and the effects bottled water is carrying into other drink markets.

“Nestlé… sold more water than Dr Pepper Snapple Group sold soda last year.” The Wall Street Journal wrote. Nestlé is now the third leading company for nonalcoholic drinks in the U.S. Due to the increased health emphasis and the current trends the sales of bottle water rose 7% from last year alone and is projected to be a bigger seller than soda by 2017. Over the last few decade bottled water consumption has increased steadily while soda consumption has steadily fallen. At the same time bottled water prices have fallen while soda prices have continued to rise.

Consumers have chosen to pay a little extra for bottled water over tap since a 2013 industry survey blamed tap water for a some illnesses, and many companies have noticed these trends and jumped on the opportunity. As more companies enter the bottled water market, companies are becoming more creative and more innovative with their brands, flavors, and bottles. Even as environmentalists have addressed their concerns (18 national parks including Mount Rushmore and the Grand Canyon have banned the sale of bottled in the parks), consumers choose factory bottled water over using a more enviro-friendly refillable bottle. Even during the massive droughts in California certain companies have continued to bottle in the California.

People have been told they need eight glasses of water a day to be properly hydrated; however, most people don’t realize that the recommended amount of water factors in fluids you receive from foods you eat as well as other beverages. So many of the people drinking water by the gallon a day are actually over hydrated. Many consumers also claim that certain waters like the alkaline water are easier for them to drink than regular water, but the Food and Drug Administration can’t monitor many bottling plants or make companies share their results so they state “for most people, plain water is best.

As for me, I spent a large part of my childhood drinking well water and tap water and have never been healthier. Everything is good in moderation, but I am not willing to pay high prices for labels that have little to no regulated testing. Also water is water why do we need to infuse it with fruits, vegetables, and other plants?

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The Uninformed Consumer

Many of today’s American consumers have a number of misconceptions about agriculture and agricultural practices. One such consumer happened to be a senior journalism student at the University of Iowa named Cassidy Riley. After taking an internship with the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Riley opened up to “The Des Moines Register” in an August 22nd article about how her internship opened her eyes. By working side-by-side with a variation of agricultural producers, Riley was able to confront a number of the worries she had entering the ag sector. Riley is not alone in her confusion when it comes to the agricultural sector. The majority of consumers have had little to no exposure to the ag field beyond their grocery stores and farmers’ markets.

Growing up on a small farm then moving in Illinois to a college town in another state, I have been able to see first hand where certain misconceptions can negatively affect agriculturalists. The exposure gap exists not only in urban settings but in rural settings as well. In a small town, citizens who live in the city limits may only know what the media tells them about their farming neighbors. These misconceptions can be clarified if consumers meet with the same local producers that they are more and more frequently demanding.

As Riley said in her interview, most of exposure to ag producers came from the media and from other consumers. This is common for consumers; however, the media tends to only cover the ag news when something negative happens in the sector. By doing this, consumers unfortunately develop many incorrect ideas about their food producers such as infected feeds making livestock sick, highly medicated livestock being sent to meat processors, and farmers polluting water without worry.

Even as agriculture is one of the most important parts of daily life, many modern consumers distrust producers for false reasons. Without ag producers, the world wouldn’t have food to eat, clothes to wear, or gas to travel. There is a lack of education and exposure to the agriculture sector that causes huge communication gaps between producer and consumer. As consumers have begun requesting their products from smaller, more local producers, they should request a new level of information to shrink the number of misconceptions. This knowledge gap ultimately will only create an inaccurately informed consumer and damage the ag market.