Fiji water

Travis Daub finds a Pablo

Päster column:

Producing and shipping one bottle of Fiji bottled water around the globe

consumes nearly 27 liters of water, nearly a kilogram of fossil fuels, and

generates more than a pound of carbon dioxide emissions. No wonder that stuff

is so overpriced.

I find the Fiji water phenomenon fascinating. The whole marketing

schtick is that you’re drinking water from a tropical paradise. And it’s

working, says Päster:

Fiji is now # 2 in premium bottled water, behind Evian where we have the

same transportation issue. An environmental absurdity!

Now, it’s worth pointing out that "premium bottled water", here,

pretty much means "imported bottled water". Water is like

vodka: a commodity which can be distinguished only by means of clever marketing

which is nearly always based on some exotic country of origin.

The thing which fascinates me is that people are so hyperaware of the fact

that they’re being marketed to that they manage to de-guilt themselves from

the fact that they’re drinking an environmental absurdity. They think of Fiji

as a brand, not a country – and thereby gloss over the fact that

they’re drinking water which has been shipped over in containers from the other

side of the planet.

Incidentally, my cousin Tillmann,

a microbiologist, tells me that if you store water in non-reusable plastic containers

like Fiji water bottles, the amount of microflora in that water will rise much

more quickly than if you store it in glass or in a proper hardened-plastic water

bottle. So while Fiji water might indeed be very pure at source, it doesn’t

necessarily stay that way.

If consumers acted remotely rationally, there would be a kind of marketing

arbitrage here. If Fiji is a triumph of marketing over substance, then someone

else should be able to do an equally good marketing job on American water, undersell

Fiji, and drive Fiji out of the market. The problem, of course, is that Fiji’s

exorbitant price (I’ve seen tiny bottles sold for $4.50 in New York delis) is

part of its attraction.

So Fiji’s owners will continue to make a fortune, and, in doing so, cause a

huge amount of entirely unneccesary environmental damage. It’s the kind of thing

to drive Amory Lovins up the wall.

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2 Responses to Fiji water

  1. This is a very interesting case. On one hand you have successful Fijian businesses and the other tragic annihilation of mother earth.

    Where do we go from here?

  2. Closet Doors says:

    Thanks brother was very nice of page.

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