Bottled Water, Next Generation Commodity

The stock exchange defines a commodity as “any unprocessed or partially processed good.” Wikipedia defines a commodity as anything for which there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation across a given market. When we think of commodities or check the current prices of various commodities, we think of oil, natural gas, soybeans, corn, gold, silver, and other precious metals. Water, wind, and solar power are not considered commodities and cannot be publicly traded, but they are things that there are major demands for in our quickly developing world. Companies like First Solar, SunPower Corporation, and Suntech Power help provide megawatts of power through solar energy. Enercon and REpower manufacture the world’s largest wind turbines and take advantage of wind power to create energy. Finally we all pay water bills, we see Aquafina commercials on TV, and drink water out of public drinking fountains, yet the average person does not comprehend the demand for bottled water in this country. I guess it’s not just general water that is in demand, but the method of how we drink water and that Americans have a preference for the types of water they want and will pay for.

Within the last four quarters, Apple has reported Ipod revenue of 9.21 billion dollars with much help from the Ipod Touch and new versions of the Ipod Nano. 2007 movie tickets sales in the US totaled 9.66 billion dollars with blockbuster movies such as Spider Man 3, Shrek the Third, and Transformers all released last year. Also in 2007, Major League Baseball almost caught up to the National Football League in revenue with a little over 6 billion dollars. While all this revenue for MLB, Ipods, and movie tickets were quite impressive for 2007, what beat all those industries was bottled water. The United States contributed over 15-billion dollars to the bottled water industry last year!

Interesting bottled water statistics:

  • Americans drink more bottled water than coffee, milk, or beer. (Don’t go rushing to sell your Starbucks or Anheuser-Busch shares quite yet though)
  • In 1976, the average American drank 1.6 gallons of bottled water per year. Just last year in 2007, the average American drank over 28 gallons of bottled water. In over thirty years, we have increased our bottled water consumption by over seventeen times.
  • Fiji Water produces 1-million bottles/day while 50% of the residents in Fiji don’t even have reusable drinking water.
  • The only drink that outsells bottled water is carbonated soft drinks which totals to an annual consumption of 52.9 billion gallons.
  • Bottled water is a 50-billion dollar industry worldwide with bottling companies like Arrowhead, Poland Springs, Crystal Geyser, and Saratoga Springs.
  • 24% of US bottled water is tap water purified and repackaged by Coke & Pepsi (aka purified municipal water).
  • Pepsi’s Aquafina is the #1 selling bottled water with 13% market share while Coke’s Dasani bottled water is #2 with 11% market share.

This doesn’t mean that people are completely halting their consumption of carbonated beverages, but it means consumers are adding a lot more bottled water to their drinking options. Coke (KO) and Pepsi (PEP) realize that consumers are considering a cold bottle of water over a cola, and almost a quarter of the US bottled water industry is derived from those two companies. Just because the bottled water industry is flourishing , it doesn’t make Coke and Pepsi good investment options. At the same time they generate much revenue from their bottled water brands, they also rely on huge revenues from their carbonated drink options. I honestly don’t know of any good way to profit in the stock market from the large growth of the bottled water industry. There are much better deals in the market right now with better long-term growth than these two beverage companies.

For me, it’s just a major eye opener on how much Americans spend on purified municipal water when we can just boil and bottle our own tap water at home. If we’re paying a premium for bottled water, I’d think that we’d at least want some spring water to get our money’s worth. We tend to pay a very high price for convenience in this country. If gasoline starts to cost $4/gallon this coming summer and a gallon of milk rises to $6, then it may be prudent to bottle our own water sooner rather than later!!!!


7 Responses to Bottled Water, Next Generation Commodity

  1. bumpstart says:

    Last year, Santa Clara county launched a tap water campaign.

    Apparently, municipal water in America is required to meet higher cleanliness standards than those required of bottled water. I’ve been drinking tap water my whole life, and I swear that in some areas the tap water does taste really bad. Maybe it’s because of the pipes they’re routed through.

  2. bumscientist says:

    I drank tap water all my life until I moved to San Diego. The water there is hard and bad. It’s hard to beat bay area tap water since it’s from Hetch Hetchy. Nature’s drink delivered directly to your home. Some people pay much more for bottled water than they do for soft drinks. I have wishes to start a company that grows bamboo to purify water since bamboo is extremely porous and hardy. You can create bamboo charcoal by burning in absence of oxygen just like other wood charcoals.

  3. bumpstart says:

    i don’t think it’s a bottled water vs. soft drinks thing. People always have and always will drink a lot of water (8 glasses a day, right??). It’s just that in the past decade or 2, we’ve realized that it’s easier to pay 25 cents for a bottle of water that can be thrown away when empty than to fill a reusable bottle, carry the empty bottle back home, and wash it.

  4. bumscientist says:

    Make sure to recycle that bottle after you’re done with it. Reduce, reuse and recycle. Those are listed in order of priority. It also depends on your consumption too. I’m pretty sure those weight lifters in the gym with their gallon jugs, don’t buy new ones every day.

  5. bumpstart says:

    On an episode of Penn & Teller’s “Bullshit” , they said that recycling is BS because it costs more (in energy costs) to recycle an aluminum can than what is saved by recycling it. I don’t know if that’s true. Regardless, I think charging CRV is a big scam. I’m not going to drive 5 miles to get to the nearest recycling center to collect a nickel for my plastic water bottle.

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