Thursday, January 29, 2009

The great mineral water rip-off

Despite the reaction against bottled mineral water I still drink it in preference to tap. (Long explanation that could take up the whole of this post but basically I worry about the residues of drugs and other chemicals that it's carrying)

But there doesn't seem much justification for the discrepancy in prices between the heavily promoted brands and the supermarket own brands. I'm not saying they don't taste different - they do - simply that I'm not prepared to pay five or six times as much for a water I like than a water that is maybe a little more bland but perfectly refreshing.

Take San Pellegrino, for instance. A sparkling water which currently sells for 87p for a 750ml bottle in Tesco - or 11.6p per 100ml. You can buy 2 litres of Tesco's own Ashbeck Mountain Spring water at the moment for 33p or 1.7p per 100ml. If you put ice (made with still mineral water) and a slice of lemon or lime in it, it's delicious and a fraction of the price.

I will buy a branded mineral water I like when it's on special offer. Tesco currently has Evian for example at 60p for 2 litres which works out at 3p per 100ml, again, more expensive than an own brand equivalent but much, much cheaper than the £2 odd that you will pay for a medium-sized bottle at garages, stations and sandwich shops. (It's well worth buying a pack of six small individual bottles from the supermarket then keep on filling them from a large one once you've drunk the contents. And I always try and carry a bottle with me so that I don't have to pay the outrageous amount they charge in hotel mini-bars)

Interestingly there's a report in Le Figaro today saying that even the French have cut down the amount they're spending on mineral water and I'm sure the same is true of the UK. So where do you stand? Has the credit crunch made you give up your mineral water habit or change the type you buy or have you always drunk tap?


  1. Two points, which may be of interest, inspired by your post:
    1. I was recently served filtered water adjusted to a sharp pH of 9.5, served with a slice of cucumber. The venue happened to be offering meticulous vegan food and the marriage was harmonious;
    2. I believe that if people boycott buying H2O in restaurants en masse then restaurateurs will be forced to put up prices elsewhere - to regain the dehydrated revenue...

  2. Was that Saf, Douglas - sounds fascinating. And yes, you're right about water revenue, particularly in these hard times.

  3. Tap water every time. The only time I drink bottled water is if I can't get near a tap.

  4. I certainly take your point on cost grounds, boak. Just a bit uneasy about scrupulousness (or otherwise) of water authorities.

  5. It was indeed Curtain Road's 'Saf'.

    Incidentally I just went on a press trip to the Gers - I was thinking about your Decanter article on Foie Gras when seeing the birds being fed and their large livers in the market (and on the plate).

  6. I must go there. Sounds a really interesting place.

    What was your reaction to your foie gras trip? Did you visit a farm?

  7. The Gers is not somewhere I would want to spend my relative youth, Fiona! I would miss the bright lights of London too much...

    I only had time to visit a very small family owned foie farm where the ducks were cleanly kept with fresh air and natural light.

    The trip was really about the rich genetic heritage of grape vines like Tannat (star of 'The Red Wine Diet') and the blending of the top cuvees for Producteurs Plaimont.

    Having visited, I've become very interested in the so-called 'French Paradox' if it even is that. If you like, I'll be happy to send you the link to the article when ready.

  8. Water authorities are far, far more stringently regulated than mineral water producers. I don't have any concerns about mineral water being impure, but neither do I have the remotest fear of being poisoned by my tap water.

  9. I'm a bit late, but I'm with Barm: I'd much rather trust a heavily regulated Water Authority than a profiteering drinks company. Remember when Coca-Cola just tried bottling tap water anyway. Bottled water should just be banned. Its waste of resources is immoral, and justifying it by saying the profits will keep restaurants in business just shows how warped our logic is when we want to defend our excesses.