Thursday, December 24, 2009

Bottled water sales dry up; industry asks ‘why?’

Consumer backlash begins to bite, but recession also likely to blame

Image: Discarded water bottles. Karen Bleier / AFP-Getty Images file

By Jennifer Alsever contributor
updated 9:08 a.m. PT, Fri., Dec . 18, 2009

Heather Lewis was wracked with guilt when she realized she was addicted to the bottle.

Bottled water, that is.

At her worst, she said she went through five plastic bottles of water a day nearly every day for two years.

“It was appalling,” said Lewis, an architect from Louisville, Colo. “I felt like Aquafina’s trained monkey.”

But one day in January, as she gazed at the piles of plastic in her recycling bin, she decided to quit. “It was a cumulative sense of responsibility that made me do it,” Lewis said

Lewis is part of a bigger backlash against bottled water happening across the nation, and after decades of growth, the $11 billion industry is stuttering.

After steady expansion that saw U.S. per capita consumption grow from less than two gallons a year to a peak of 29 in 2007, bottled water sales slipped 3.2 percent in 2008 and are projected to dip another 2 percent this year, according to estimates by the Beverage Marketing Corporation, a New York research and consulting firm.

The primary cause of the decline is hotly contested. …

Bottled water sales dry up; industry asks ‘why?’

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