Makower: Let’s talk about consumers, the users of your product. What have you learned about their willingness to engage, have a conversation, and maybe even change their habits?
Jeffery: Let’s start with where our category is today. Bottled water is now the number-two-selling beverage in America. Our household penetration is over 75 percent. It grew by 7 percent this year because carbonated soft drinks are declining. It will be about four or five years before the lines cross and bottled water becomes the number-one-selling beverage in America — and that’s with all the noise around it.
Makower: So consumers generally are receptive, not minding what you are from a sustainability perspective?
Jeffery: I think people are still very concerned about plastic waste and what’s going into landfills. I don’t want to trivialize that at all.
But this is the conundrum we have. The people that don’t like bottled water would tell you, “You can’t have bottled water. You can have tap water. And you can’t drink carbonated soft drinks any more because of the calories. And, oh, by the way, when Sandy comes up to the East Coast and renders a million people homeless, it’s okay to have bottled water for those emergency issues.”
Here is an interesting statistic: There are a billion packages of beverages sold in the United States every single day. Seventy percent of the beverages we drink come in packages, and the reason they do is because people want the safety and trust of a sealed package. It’s just the way we’ve become as a society.
Now, if people want tap water, we’re fine with that, too, because we haven’t taken any share of market from tap water. All of our business over the last 20 years has come from the decline of soft drinks. In the last 10 years, carbonated soft drink consumption is down 20 percent, and 70 percent of it has gone to bottle water.
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