Bottled Water Trends in Japan

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The Japanese are heir to waters of great quality or historical value, some which are even claimed "divine". In order to raise the public awareness and help preserve this natural heritage the Japanese Ministry of Environment designated 100 sources of natural water as Japan's "Selected Exquisite" waters in 1985. Thus, in addition to receiving healthy water from the tap, residents and visitors in Japan can seek out such waters as White Dragon water, which flows from the mouths of twin entwined dragons at the Arai (New Wells) Yakushi Temple in Tokyo or bring home samples of the Yotei Mountain's Spout Water, which spurts from the foot of the mountain at the rate of 80,000 tons/day after filtering through the volcanic rock.

So it is with a bit of chagrin that we report today on the newest trends in bottled water in Japan:Suntory, Japanese whiskey company and market leader in bottle water (Tennensui water), has added a new twist to consumer demand for water in bottles. "Mizumizushia" has been on the market since March 2005, selling at about 3.80 U.S. Dollars per 2-liter bottle. The water, riding on the Japanese health boom, contains deep seawater and dietary fiber, which is claimed to reduce the absorption of suger if it is consumed with meals, helping to control a rise in blood sugar related to diabetes. The deep sea water is also rich in magnesium, replenishing a mineral which many diabetics lack.

Proving that this is a trend and not an isolated case, competitor House Foods Corp started selling "Mineralist" containing zinc, copper and iron, and claimed to reduce the risk of osteoporosis for women. House Foods has been also been selling water with dietary fiber since 2004.

A three-fold increase in the sales of bottled waters over the last decade, with double digit growth rates (11 percent since 2004, predicted to be repeated in this year) reflects not only new domestic products, but also the import of high-end European waters such as Volvic, imported by Kirin Breweries, which has exceeded the market average with 14% growth since last year. Although Japanese consumption of bottled water is still low relative to European and American patterns, Japan seems to be joining the trend towards resource-intensive sources for life's most important ingredient.