More Suckers for Water

Americans don't seem to learn to detect bogus marketing.

Here we go again! It seems that brands of bottled water have proliferated even since our earlier article. Alkaline water brands and types have become universally available over the past few months and have approximately doubled in the number listed (or that this writer could easily find) since then.

Even a women’s network company that accepts advertisements from these people has this to say about their wares:

… since science says the alkaline diet overall is pretty bogus…

Before you decide to run out and stock up on alkaline bottled water and filters, note that the emphasis should be on the word "claimed" when discussing benefits. "There are no substantiated health claims out there," says Levine. "Clinical studies have not yet been able to confidently support these claims, as study results are lacking and overall inconclusive."

Okay, so maybe it isn't the fountain of youth. But alkaline water is also known for its ultra-hydrating ability. In fact, Essentia touts that their enhanced water is "more hydrating than the leading bottled water." So are you missing out on extra hydration that you could use during your workouts? "I do not recommend alkaline water to my clients," says Luke Corey, Performance Dietician at Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine.

"Regular tap water is just as effective as alkaline water in supporting general health and performance." If you're already on the alkaline water train, don't blush too hard—while there aren't any substantiated health claims at this point, turns out, there aren't any studies showing any negative effects either, which Levine backs up. One proven downside though: It costs about double the price of regular water - $2.49 for a 33-ounce bottle of Essentia.

*$2.49 is hideously expensive for 33 ounces (1L) of water. It would be hard an exact cost of an equivalent volume of tap-water because the value would be such a tiny fraction of a cent. It’s an absurd reality that people can be persuaded to pay that much for something that is nearly free.

Yes, the number of brands has proliferatedt and the absurdity of the advertising claims has too. Essentia has a website which – next to a young metrosexual sporting a shoulder tattoo of the brand logo – touts the benefits of some mysterious ionization process.

“WE’RE AS TRANSPARENT AS OUR PRODUCT” proclaims a topic heading on their website. While obviously intended to be a statement about their marketing and product design philosophies, we find the believability of all the stuff we read about Essentia dubious at best.  One hopes their water is not as hard to swallow as that statement.

And they have put together photographs of citizens of #EssentiaNation which is obviously a place where all residents spend their time on skateboards or with basketballs in hand. This place is all-inclusive, with black, white, Oriental, male, female, cowboy, iron pumpers, musicians, M/F mixed boxers, and others.

The one outstanding person is a serious-looking man wearing a “US Military Performance Sports” shirt, soaking wet. Changes must have been made since we were on active duty in the Air Force: we referred to Army, Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps as our fellows in arms.  "US Military" was not a branch of the service at that time, and we certainly could not have afforded the $200 sunglasses he is wearing on military pay.

It gets worse.  Now there is “VOSS”, a Norwegian-based brand of bottled water ostensibly from the village of Vatnestrøm in Iveland municipality, Aust-Agder County. This wonderful stuff offers a list of chemical credentials right out of Tom Lehrer. We used to know a guy named Voss, and he would have fit right in. The water is contained in a rather elegant bottle, but is that truly worth the cost?.

Quoth the marketing material, VOSS is loaded with chloride.  One of the most common chlorides is sodium chloride, NaCl - that would be table salt, also found in seawater.

But aside from enough chemicals to stock a lab, this water is the very first that advertises its acidic chemical bent. Not horribly acidic, just 6 pH (remember 7 pH is neutral), but contrary to much of what we have been reading which proclaims the properties of alkali water, the exact opposite of acidic, as being the ne plus ultra of bottled water.

Aside from the obvious bovine-excrement quotient of thie promotion material, this is a transparently fatuous company, brand, and, worst of all, concept. The water is tap-water from a village in Norway which claims artesian water. According to a few minutes' of Google research, there are no artesian wells there, and the bottler is more than 250 miles from Voss Mountain.

Perhaps I should make my fortune by selling my tap-water as Weeki Wachi Spring water – Weeki Wachi is a lot closer to my house and well within 250 miles. And there are mermaids in Florida spring water, perhaps they could feature in the marketing?

Surprisingly, their website contains a small shred of honesty, in the form of a user letter:

Brianna S

Foodie Expert Level 2

Diet – Organic

I used to love this water until I found out that it is acidic. So you are paying a premium price for no reason. It tastes just fine, but you're better off spending money on a water that is the SAME price, but alkaline, appropriate for human consumption. The quality of Voss is about the same as Deer Park with a pH of only 6.5-7 No reason to spend that extra money for that quality. If you want to be boujee then drink a water high in alkaline... LOL.

Foodie Expert 2 Brianna S is obviously a serious person. She hates acidic water – horrors. And she has sussed out the fact that Voss water is expensive – but it isn’t even alkaline! What a screw job! And she Laughs Out Loud at the fact that her diet includes no rocks, sand, shreds of aluminum, or any other inorganic material – her diet is Organic, or so she says.

And she's right!  In point of fact, everything that any of us eats (that is digestible), most of what we wear, and much of the environment around us is organic by definition in the chemical sense, as in, being carbon-based.

But, similarly by definition, none of the water that we drink is organic, nor should it be; if there is an organic component to its chemistry, then it should be sterilized correctly so that we are sure all organic materials are dead. Organic compounds are not necessarily living matter, but the point is that anything living must be rendered dead in our drinking water without taking unpleasant risks of an uncomfortable encounter with Montezuma.

Voss water costs about the same as Budweiser, ounce for ounce, but we will bet that Budweiser is a more satisfying drink, even though it is acidic and induces belching.

Perhaps you are more interested in your brain than in your body?  In your heart you knew we were going to find one of these: “Smartwater.” From the Coca-Cola Company, no less; it seems that those tireless devotees of your health are marketing the product from Glaceau. First it was the Smart phone, then the smart home, the smart lightbulb; the intelligence is being spread around, maybe a little thinly, into the water market.

Smartwater is “all about the electrolytes,” they claim, complete with Jennifer Aniston to help them keep those electrodes quiet. Coca-Cola marketers must have plenty of money to spend on advertising talent.

Nutrition information reveals that this stuff has what you would expect from water: zeros in all categories. The website tells us that it was inspired by clouds, and it is available in both still and carbonated varieties, depending on how fizzy you prefer your clouds to be.  A quick perusal of the reviews finds a general consensus that "this one doesn't live up to they hype" - what a shock!

Next is “Eternal” Artesian Naturally Alkaline Spring water. If one brand is bogus and acidic, then we must return to the current fad of alkaline waters - indeed, to Naturally Alkaline Spring water. And artesian, no less - just like the water my ex-wife drinks from the City of Memphis Light Gas and Water utility.

Surely Eternal can be nothing like Memphis water? After all, it is “Eternal Water – Nature’s Perfect Water ™ – Begins as a Cloud High in the Sky.”

A few seconds of reflection reveals the absurdity of those claims, and underscores a problem for the marketers of all these brands – what can you say about water? That it has no flavor, and that this is one of its strongest points? That it tastes great cold? All beverages tastes best very cold or very warm. But marketers have to write copy and develop slogans, so hyperbole is it for them.

There must’ve been a break in the line at the copyright office for them to be able to register that wonderful, catchy, descriptive phrase. Of course, someone else could copyright “Memphis City Water – Nature’s Perfect Water” and the Eternal company would not have a leg to stand on if they were to decide to sue.

That is the second time that Memphis city water has been used as an example in this column. But there’s a good reason for that: Memphis water is artesian water and Memphis is exceedingly proud of it. They take precautions against sullying it with any chlorine or other additives that might affect the purity of the substance. There are many things not to be proud of in Memphis, but the water has always been among the best in the world, and it’s cheap municipal water.

With an accidental click, we were taken to the GNC website where AQUAHYDRATE is offered for sale at the heart-stopping price of $23.99 - although further investigation following resuscitation revealed that this is the price for 12 bottles, which at $2.00 per liter is in line with most of the other overpriced substances in this category.

This one offers “Performance in the Purest Form ™” as well as “2X more electrolytes than leading Electrolyte-Enhanced Waters.”

It’s a slogan written by language-retarded folk who delight in being non-specific about comparative quantities. Do they mean when they use “2X more…” that there is twice as much or, like it says, there is a quantity and then two times that quantity more, yielding three times as much? It doesn’t really matter, since the item they are comparing is not specified. The water consuming public has gotten used to these silly comparisons, and seems never to question them anymore.

One thing is for certain, though – they advertise this, and it's measurable – the pH of this water is 9+, making it the most alkaline water I could find. There, I just used one of their tricks - it was a comparative statement with no substantive comparisons, a tried-and-true marketing technique of the flim-flam sort.

We have merely scratched the surface of this topic so rich in idiocy; there is much to be questioned and looked upon derisively. Drinking water in the United States provided by municipalities, with very few exceptions, is tasty and safe to drink. There is no similar mandatory standard for bottled water. That is left to the integrity of the bottler, and who could doubt the honesty of anyone who'd make such claims?

There is no way to count all the brands and types of water that are now on the market, but they seem to be proliferating at an alarming rate. Yet for all the multifarious firms and countless people hawking this water, they collectively have not a single scruple among them. The more outrageous the claims, the more outlandishly marked-up the already-ludicrous pricing, the more devoutly do the customers regard their water as do monks their rosaries. At a point, this lapses into religion.

And the people to whom this is a serious matter are religious about it. We live in an age where our society has given up on traditional religions - except Islam, of course - and the void left behind is being filled with silliness – vastly overpriced water.

Everyone involved is all wet, through and through - but will any of them ever realize it?

Thomas Anderson is a multi-state registered architect and an ex-Air Force electronic technician, who is a keen observer of the human condition.  Read other articles by Thomas Anderson or other articles on Business.
Reader Comments

This nonsense, coupled with the "raw" water fad in California (not processed at all, ie wild water from the puddle out back), makes me wonder if I could sell "bio-water". Filtered through the finest organic bio-filters available. A marvel of evolution. As nature intended. blah, blah blah.... Just don't call it a kidney.

February 14, 2018 7:09 PM

At least it isn't flavored sugar water (AKA soft drinks). I read that the soft drink manufacturers are hurting because sales are way off and now they're looking for alternatives.

But anyway, how else can you get a little bit of Norway in a bottle for $2? Or Fiji, New Zealand, or Memphis? Written while sipping SmartWater. Hey, I am a little smarter! I think my pet rock just smiled at me.

February 14, 2018 9:16 PM

P T Barnum said there's a sucker born every minute, but he clearly understated the case. One sucker per minute would clearly not suffice to support all these manufacturers. How would you update Mr. Barnum's claim?

February 15, 2018 12:34 AM

This reminds me of Don Novell's character from Saturday Night Live. His character, Father Guido Sarducci once tried to market a knockoff of Mr. Coffee called "Mr.Tea." He demonstrated it by pouring hot water through a "machine" which contained your tea bag and presto! Out came a cup of hot tea. Great satire. But really, who doesn't like an occasional bottle of Perrier with its sublime taste of benzene?

February 15, 2018 11:04 AM

Not the first time marketing wizards have tried to sell a commodity as a fashion item. You can go to a work out in cheap sweats or much more expensive Nike warm up outfits. No difference in end results. You burn the same amount of calories riding an Exercycle with either outfit. But I guess you feel like you’ve had a better work out with the high priced garb. People usually work out in places with other people around. Some feel the need to impress...with outfit or water. Surprised Nike hasn’t come up with their own super duper hydration system aka glass of water.

February 15, 2018 11:52 PM
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