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2010/11/15

Aren’t you Lucky to Have so much Choice?

Australian consumers are spoiled with choice. Just try finding a product on your local supermarket shelf that doesn’t have at least one competitor if not three or four, or more. It’s nigh on impossible.

We all have moments, particularly when we’re in a hurry, when a little less choice would be a good thing, but overall a competitive market is healthy, it helps to keep prices down and it caters to the diversity of likes and dislikes in our community.

When it comes to buying bottled water consumers have a huge number of options. To start with there’s the choice between spring or mineral or purified tap water and secondly, a choice of sparkling or still. In the spring water category alone there are more than thirty brands across the shelves of shops and supermarkets around Australia plus more than a dozen brands of purified tap water.

Now a lot of people would say water is water so it doesn’t matter which brand you choose. However, the point is that if you are buying bottled spring water you must make a choice. So what are the factors likely to influence that choice? Is it price? Is it the brand name? Is it the packaging? Is it the mineral content? Or is it simply habit?

For the purpose of comparison let’s look at price. I recently made a random purchase of three 600ml bottles of spring water from my local supermarket. I say random because they were the only three brands available as loose 600ml products.  The prices were $0.89, $1.09 and $1.89.

The most expensive brand was the one that promotes itself as “Australia’s premium spring water” and is produced by the largest beverage corporation in Australia. The company spends a great deal of money promoting its brands including their spring water which contributes to the high cost.

The cheapest was from a brand I hadn’t seen before from a company based in New South Wales.

What was interesting was that neither of these waters were single source waters. Both waters were sourced from multiple sites around the country and then shipped to a bottling plant. Apart from the shape of the bottle and the brand label on it, the only difference was in the typical analysis of the water which showed the cheaper brand to have much higher levels of sodium, calcium, potassium, chloride, bicarbonate, etc.

Will a greater volume of these dissolved solids do you any harm? Not in the slightest. What it will do is affect the softness and taste of the water, which brings us back to choice and personal preferences.

So next time you reach for a bottle of spring water here’s a couple of things to consider. With so many brands to choose from why select the same brand each time? If you don’t try a different brand how will you know for sure which one you really like?

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