Nestle Admits to Marketing Bottled Water to Minority Communities

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Forbes reported a couple months ago that non-white populations tend to "consume bottled water more often than white Americans, and spend a greater proportion of their income (about 1%, compared to the 0.4% white Americans dole out) on this superfluous commodity every year"—and that bottled water companies are pushing the product in those communities intentionally by, for example, creating Latino-specific brands and targeting "minority moms."

But a recent Inter Press Service story gets an outright admission of that targeted approach:

When asked whether Nestle does market specifically to minority communities, Jane Lazgin, director of corporate communications for Nestlé Waters North America, told IPS, "That's correct."

Nestle has stores actually dedicated to its Pure Life bottled water line, and the Daily Mail reports that its first such store opened in the Bronx two years ago, and the company has since "used Spanish television commercials to market the water to Latinos as a healthy product."

The story quotes Erin Diaz, an organizer with Corporate Accountability International: "New York has some of the best tap water in the country... But Nestlé has been targeting Latinos, making people think that buying bottled water is the most responsible choice."

And then says that Nestle "insists that bottled water can help tackle obesity among Latinos and that Pure Life adverts urge people to buy water rather than sugary drinks." It's true that Hispanic children are at higher risk of obesity, but they can replace sugary drinks (which are also thought to be marketed more heavily to Latino populations) with water from the tap as easily as from the bottle—without the risk of BPA or of boosting Nestle's profits.

But the tactics spread beyond Nestle, as Forbes points out. Coca Cola and Nestle both have campaigns targeting "minority moms," and:

Paul Kurkulis, founder and president of Las Oleadas, an Aspen-based company, has been hawking a brand of mineral -enhanced bottled water called Oleada in Colorado, Nevada, Arizona and California, with his focus being the Hispanic market. Loosely translated Las Oleadas means “the momentum that drives a wave.” The text on the labels were originally only in Spanish, but they now also feature English, since Kurkulis found he had inadvertently garnered some non-Spanish speaking customers.

All while nothing about bottled water has changed—the list of reasons it is no better (and is sometimes worse) than tap water is as valid as ever.

Tags: Bottled Water | Economics | Plastics