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Among beverages, bottled water undoubtedly enjoys a privileged position in the marketplace. Consumers are willing to pay a hefty premium for the safety, convenience, and consistency in quality and taste of packaged water.
Progressive bottlers wishing to expand their market share strive to differentiate their products by elevating a specific brand in terms of characteristics, such as natural origin, superior taste or consistency in quality. To consumers, however, such product qualities are what they have grown accustomed to expect from the leading brands. As a result, bottlers continuously have to come up with more creative ideas that exceed the expectations of consumers.
One potential way to accomplish this is to truly produce a product that is free of harmful contaminants—not just meeting the limits of existing regulations, but going the extra step of reducing them down to non-detectable levels.
For example, harmful contaminants such as arsenic and uranium are regulated in public drinking water supplies and bottled water so they do not surpass the maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) set by the U.S. EPA at 10 ppb and 30 ppb, respectively. The long-term public health goal set by the EPA for such contaminants, however, is not the current MCL values, but is in fact zero. This is tacit recognition by the EPA that if enough financial resources were available, the preferred public health goal of zero contaminants would become the standard.
With the premium that consumers are willing to pay for bottled water, the nominal cost for reducing these contaminants to zero (or more correctly, “close to zero”) would add little to the cost of the water. Customized ion exchange resin technology that can do this is already available from specialized vendors.
Not only does the specialized ion exchange technology exist to remove contaminants to close to zero levels, but if executed correctly, the technology complies with the regulations established by the U.S. FDA, the federal government watchdog for the bottled water industry. For natural waters, the FDA, under its standard of quality regulations, will only allow the removal of contaminants that are deemed to have a negative impact on health, but at the same time, will not allow for any major changes in the composition of the water while doing so. Therefore, if major changes occur during any such treatment, the law is clear that such improperly treated water cannot be labeled as natural or spring water.
Bottlers should therefore seek out vendors who specialize in ion exchange technology that is customized for each specific water source and allows contaminants of concern to be removed while causing only insignificant and allowable changes to the composition of the treated water. Implementing such customized removal technology is practical but requires proper planning and close cooperation with the specialist vendor for ongoing technical support.
Differentiating bottled water by enhancing its inherent characteristics above and beyond what is currently available or called for by current regulations makes good economic sense as well as good public relations sense. Consumers will continue to pay a premium for good water quality. Why not go the extra mile and give them even better quality water, completely free of naturally occurring harmful contaminants such as arsenic and uranium?