In case you’re wondering who to blame for the popularity of disposable water bottles and the environmental catastrophe they have fueled – you could start with Perrier, the brand that first launched the craze in 1978 with a huge advertising campaign in the US. But reducing it down to a single villain brand wouldn’t tell the whole story. The history of the rise of water bottles is much more complex and that story is explored in a new book called Unbottled which details how water bottles have “exacerbated inequality and intensified pollution.” The core focus of the book centers on one fact and one perception.
The Fact: “The share of U.S. bottled water that comes from public tap water systems soared from one-third in 2000 to almost two-thirds in 2017.”
The Perception: “The proportion of Americans reporting they were extremely concerned about drinking water pollution rose from 32% in 1973 to 66% in 1988, and it has since risen as high as 80%.”
So most bottled water companies are selling tap water while simultaneously fueling and benefitting from the perception that tap water is contaminated or less suitable for drinking. It’s no wonder selling bottled water is considered the “marketing trick of the century.”