by B. E. Osborne
The Bottled Water market in the U.K. was first established several centuries ago when the beneficial properties of Mineral and Spring Water was recognised and it was hoped that people could benefit from these properties without visiting the particular Spring or Well. Historically, this Mineral Water market gradually developed but during the mid 19th century the artificial Mineral Water market became a commercial viability for many entrepreneurs. This in turn lead to the emergence of the Soft Drinks market as we know it today which of course is a very large and sophisticated market in modern terms. Underlying the move from artificial Mineral Water to Soft Drinks was a fundamental change in the use of the products. Whilst in the early days Mineral Waters were drunk for their medicinal values, soft drinks of course are drunk primarily for their ability to refresh and be enjoyed.
As a result of this move Bottled Mineral Water without any additions steadily became unfashionable and the market by the 1960’s had declined to a non existent level in the U.K. The move during the 1960’s and 1970’s towards processed foods has in more recent years been countered by a developing wish by the public at large to purchase more natural products. This in the late 1970’s lead to a resurgence of interest in Bottled Water. Other factors which also lead to this resurgence of interest related to the growing use of wine and wine alternatives with a meal, particularly when dining out. In addition many people started to travel abroad to places where Mineral Water was readily available and often considered essential. The first brands to capitalise on this growing interest in the U.K. were the French Mineral Waters which had always had very substantial markets in their home territories; Perrier and Evian. This was not the first time that these brands had been marketed in the U.K. and reference to early 20th century trade directories will illustrate the fact that these brands had considerable following during the late Victorian era.
Initially, during this market resurgence in the late 1970’s the catering/restaurant markets were exploited. Before long however supermarkets began to capitalise on the in home consumption and U.K. Bottlers started to initiate production. The market today in total is worth in the region of 50 million litres which equates to about £30 million sterling. Part of this litreage goes through the catering markets. Both corner stores and the major multiples account for the other half which is termed the take home sector. The principal brands distributed on a wide basis within the U.K. are Perrier (French), Ashbourne, Evian (French), Highland Spring, Malvern and of course Cwm Dale Spring bottled by my own Company.
Cwm Dale Spring comes from Shropshire and is available in a variety of packs both under the Wells label and retailer labels e.g. Sainsbury and Tesco. Our share of the home market is larger than any other single Spring and we have been bottling water at the Cwm Dale Spring since 1978. The Spring itself has a long history and bottling has taken place there since 1883. I have an interesting historical leaflet available which I will be pleased to forward on receipt of a SAE; write to me at Wells Drinks, 15 Chilworth Mews, London W2 5RG.
Recently, a substantial piece of legislation has affected the marketing of Bottled Waters. The Mineral Water Regulations became law in 1985 and have as a result of an EEC directive imposed restrictions and requirements on Bottlers of Mineral Water. These requirements include a common Commercial Designation on all packs. In the case of my Company we have selected Cwm Dale Spring as our designation. In addition the legislation lays down criteria for Mineral content and uniformity of supply. The Water must be completely unprocessed and packaging criteria are also laid down in the legislation. Premises and bottling facilities are to be regularly inspected and approved.
Many Bottlers of Spring Water have found that they are unable to comply with the Mineral Water Regulations for a variety of reasons. They can however continue to bottle their Spring Water providing it meets the Water for Human Consumption legislation. What they cannot do is describe it as a Mineral Water. This point is worth noting when purchasing bottled water in that the description Mineral Water is an assurance to the public that the product is of the highest standard and strictly controlled.
In recent times we have seen a proliferation of pack sizes and shapes and bottled Water can be readily purchased in glass, PVC and PET containers ranging in size from one quarter litre up to two litres. A further innovation which was pioneered by my own Company was the introduction of Mineral Water with a dash of lemon in an endeavour to replicate the slice of lemon flavour which many people prefer with their Mineral Water. This product was launched during the early part of 1985 and hopefully many readers will have had an opportunity of trying it as a result of it being stocked by them local supermarket.
Should any reader require further information on Bottled Waters, or on the history of Cwm Dale Spring, I will be pleased to assist.
Text & Illustration © B.E. Osborne (1986)
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