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Coca-Cola and Pepsi are depending on ‘the marketing trick of the century’ to save business

In the next few years, bottled water will likely overtake carbonated-soft-drink sales. Surprisingly, that could be good news for soda giants — and bad news for consumers.

“Bottled water is the marketing trick of the century,” writes John Jewell in The Week.

Companies selling bottled water, he argues, have managed to convince Western consumers that buying water is a healthier choice than sugary soda.

However, the comparison is a case of false equivalence. Bottled water isn’t simply an alternative to soda — it’s an alternative to the much more inexpensive and eco-friendly tap water.

“The purchase of bottled water allows us to communicate our uniqueness and the care we have for bodies and the environment,” writes Jewell.

This nutrition-minded and independent sense of self is exactly what soda giants like Pepsi and Coke are currently trying to tap into.

Bottled water

In 2014, the volumes of major water brands, including Nestle’s Poland Spring, Coca-Cola’s Dasani, and PepsiCo’s Aquafina, grew 7% to 9%. For comparison, Coke and Pepsi’s volumes fell close to 3% in the same time period.

Consumers’ thirst for bottled water is only growing — on Thursday, major European bottling company Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc. reported that total water volume increased 12% in 2015.

“We’ve had some substantial investments in R&D that have allowed us to put out more new products,” Al Carey, CEO of PepsiCo Americas Beverages, said at Beverage Digest’s Future Smarts conference in December. “Not all of it is skewed toward healthy, but very much healthy and very much single serve.”

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