In today’s on-the-go lifestyle, bottled water is a convenient, healthy hydration choice. The International Bottled Water Assn. (IBWA) works not only to encourage Americans to make healthy choices, but also to advocate for its member companies when it comes to regulations affecting bottled water quality, sales, taxes and more. WQP Managing Editor Kate Cline recently caught up with Christopher Hogan of IBWA to learn more about the association’s current and future efforts.
Kate Cline: What new legislation or regulations have affected the bottled water industry in 2014?
Christopher Hogan: Implementation of the federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) continues to be a central issue for IBWA. Throughout the year, it has been involved in the process to see it fully operational, including submitting comments on proposed regulations to implement FSMA and making sure that its members are prepared to comply. [On the federal level], look for continued support of transparency in bottled water quality reporting and labeling, and for IBWA to fight bans and labeling of products containing bisphenol A (BPA) and proposed Food & Drug Administration regulatory taxes and bans on bottled water sales on federal property.
In 2014, IBWA federal legislative action has been focused on supporting the introduction of legislation to provide consumers with transparency in bottled water quality reporting and labeling. On June 26, it applauded the introduction of the Bottled Water Quality Information Act by Reps. Renee Ellmers, Jim Matheson and Richard Nugent. The legislation is a bipartisan, IBWA-supported bill that would provide consumers with clear, consistent, comprehensive information about the quality and safety of bottled water.
We also saw the implementation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star Version 2.0 Water Cooler Specification in February 2014. IBWA worked to seek relief from the standard for bottlers and cooler manufacturers. We met with members of Congress and sent EPA a letter signed by 593 bottled water companies and cooler manufacturers outlining our concerns. As a result, EPA provided relief from some of the most burdensome aspects of implementing the new standard.
Top issues for the bottled water industry on the state and local levels in 2014 were taxes, groundwater and product bans. The industry was successful in battling proposed bottled water tax initiatives in Washington and Vermont. In September, California passed major groundwater legislation due to concerns over drought. This may benefit the bottled water industry in the long term, as the state gives authority to municipalities to regulate groundwater use. Finally, local communities continue to discuss bans of single-serve plastic water bottles. In 2014, San Francisco approved an ordinance to ban them, and Washington, D.C., and Cambridge, Mass., are considering possible proposals.
Cline: What do you see on the horizon for the bottled water industry in 2015?
Hogan: As we look at 2015 at both the federal and state levels, much hinges on what will happen in the upcoming elections and how that may change Congress and the state houses. Implementation of FSMA will remain a high priority.
On the state level, we will focus on monitoring and regulation of groundwater use, increased activity surrounding recycling and product stewardship, taxes on bottled water sales and water extraction, and single-use product bans. With all 50 states in session in 2015, it will be important to educate lawmakers and regulators about our industry’s positive role in the lives of all Americans. IBWA has always worked closely with like-minded industry groups and will continue to foster and build relationships. This ongoing effort is important to ensure that the right messages are delivered to the right people before any critical decisions are made.
Cline: What is IBWA’s role with the Drink Up campaign? How has this campaign affected sales and perception of bottled water?
Hogan: IBWA is proud to be a supporter of Drink Up, an initiative of First Lady Michelle Obama and the Partnership for a Healthier America, which encourages Americans to drink more water more often, whether from the tap, a filter or a bottle. The effort has been so successful that a 2014 Nielsen Catalina Solutions (NCS) report shows Drink Up’s online ad campaign resulted in a 3% lift in sales among those who saw the advertising. IBWA has long promoted the many benefits of drinking water, and the NCS findings confirm that the Drink Up partnership is an important and healthful effort that can benefit all Americans.