Published: The Irish Times 18/06/19 Written by Rose Costello.
Water must surely be every marketers’ dream. The basic product costs little and we are repeatedly being told we need to drink more. Up to two litres a day is considered advisable for the average person, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Where that water comes from is up to you. Most of Ireland has access to tap water that is believed to be clean and safe, though it does not always taste great.
All of us also have access to a variety of bottled waters from places as far away as Fiji. What distinguishes one from the other generally comes down to marketing budget.
Take Smartwater, which was launched on to the Irish market last year with a campaign fronted by Jennifer Aniston, its brand ambassador since 2007. There are no published figures as to how much she is paid by Coca-Cola, which owns the brand, but it won’t be peanuts.
Smartwater is described as “vapour distilled spring water with added electrolytes”. So it is creating by boiling water and adding minerals to “create a crisp, clean taste”.
In other words it tastes like water.
According to the label it is “bottled in Northumberland” in England. A green logo on the front identifies this as a “plant bottle”. According to Coca-Cola, this means that some of the plastic is made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which comes from fossil fuels, but some of it is from plants.
It doesn’t say how much, which plants, or how that works when it comes to recycling. It’s hard to see how such a bottle could be put with the plastic recycling, but Coca-Cola is not giving away its secrets. That’s the science bit.
Evian, the “natural mineral water”, lists the composition of its product rather than ingredients. That’s because it is bottled at source in the French town of Evian for its owner Danone. If the bottle looks a bit hazy that’s because it is made from 50 per cent recycled plastic. Compare the labels on Volvic, another mineral water brand owned by Danone and bottled in France, to see how the mineral content varies depending on the source. This will affect the taste.
It’s surprising how many water brands are owned by food and beverage behemoths. San Pellegrino, the sparkling mineral water bottled in Italy, does not mention on the label that the brand is owned by Nestlé.
This bottle also lists minerals on the front because the water comes replete with those picked up on its subterranean journey through Alpine rocks. It has some natural carbonation but carbon-dioxide is added to make the spa water more palatable. That’s the difference between still and sparkling water.
It’s hard to know how to categorise Ballygowan. Ever since the brand was launched in the 1980s, the water has been bottled at source in Newcastle West.
The owners claim it has gone through a 750-year journey through mineral-rich limestone and into the aquifer before being captured in Limerick. The business is owned by Britvic, a soft drinks company, with operations in Britain, France and Brazil as well as Ireland.
The bottle has what looks like an eye symbol over the words NSAI certified. This indicates that National Standards Authority of Ireland gave its stamp of approval to the process.
The green heart logo stamped with Love Irish food seems appropriate given that this has come out of the earth here.
Dunnes Stores Irish Spring water does not have that symbol even though it is bottled at source in Monaghan.
Deep River Rock, which is bottled by Coca-Cola, does not get to use the Love Irish Food symbol either, though its plant is on the island of Ireland in Co Antrim. Its label has “PET” inside a circle with two arrows, which is to indicate the plastic is recyclable. A set of simpler symbols could really help shoppers.
Bottled water is expensive, but sometimes that is the point as with the Spanish brand Solan de Cabras Natural Mineral Water, which comes in a blue glass bottle and costs twice the price of many others.
At other times health is a concern. Many Irish households are still living with “boil water” notices, and unsafe levels of lead have been found in supplies around the country. The answer may not lie in bottled water, however, given that an analysis of some of the most popular brands showed some contained tiny pieces of plastic. The WHO is to conduct a review into the potential risks of plastics in drinking water.
The Smartwater bottle says it best: “Sometimes the answer is right under your nose, and other times it’s floating above your head.”
AN explosion in online shopping has led to a big increase in delivery van traffic across rural as well as urban Ireland.
Rural roads have never seen since such activity since the days of the Circuit of Ireland motor rally and the Rás Tailteann and other cycle races which brought cavalcades of service trucks, vans, motor bikes, and cars through remote places.
Christmas shopping is being done in a different landscape this year due to Covid-19 restrictions with a greater emphasis than ever on buying local whether in store or online.
The food chain from farm to fork is among the sectors which has responded in style to the growing demands of consumers.
With the mere click of a mouse, or a simple telephone call, people can order their food, groceries, and other products from the comfort of their own homes.They can also be assured of prompt deliveries to their front door due to the increasing use of individual postcodes or even avail of click and collect services.
The food chain includes those who are in farming and fishing, those who process and market the products, drivers who deliver to shops and supermarkets and staff who stock shelves and operate counter and checkout services.
All links in the chain, which also includes butcher’s shops, have helped to maintain food supplies during the public health restrictions and are continuing to provide valuable services as they adapt to Christmas 2020 after ten challenging months.
A Festive Food Heroes campaign just launched by Agri Aware aims to show the work of farmers in producing the food that is eaten and enjoyed by millions of people at Christmas.
It involves farmers explaining to consumers how they look after their animals and crops to the highest standards all year round to ensure families can enjoy fresh and sustainable Irish produce.
Agri Aware chairman Alan Jagoe said this year more than ever, it is important that consumers buy Irish locally produced food and realise that farmers are the backbone behind the food eaten at Christmas.
Minister of State Pippa Hackett, who visited vegetable growers in north County Dublin, last week to coincide with the campaign launch, urged consumers to consider their responsibilities as well as their options when it comes to choosing their vegetables.
“This is not just about the excellent quality of the Irish root vegetables which are available.
It is also about sustainability.
“I believe that as consumers we all have a responsibility to buy local so that unnecessary food miles, which are a significant factor contributing to climate change, can be eliminated,” she said.
Ms Hackett, who has responsibility for horticulture in the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, outlined the range of vegetables available.
“While vegetables such as cauliflower and cabbage thrive all year, this is also the season for root vegetables.
“Fresh Irish carrots, parsnips, turnips, onions, swedes, sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli all are both delicious and versatile, and can make up a wide range of dishes,” she said.
According to Bord Bia, it has been a difficult year for the Irish food service industry which is expected to lose over €4bn in consumer spending, a 47% drop.
However, it predicts that, even in a worst-case scenario, there will be some bounce back next year in market recovery.
The sector covers everything from pubs, restaurants, cafes, and hotels to catering services offered in institutional settings such as workplaces, hospitals, and educational institutions.
Bord Bia chief executive Tara McCarthy said despite 2020 being a tough time for many in the sector, there were also amazing examples of resilience in the face of adversity.
Some of these were shared with almost 500 delegates at its virtual food service seminar broadcast from the RDS last month.
They included a restaurant chain driving increased sales through off premises activity and ‘cloud’ kitchens, a city centre-based salad bar partnering with a suburban coffee shop to reach customers working from home and a handmade dessert producer that developed a direct-to-consumer channel.
“These are just some examples of the grit and determination that the Irish food and drink industry continues to display and ultimately a testament to those that rise to ongoing challenges day in, day out.”
Good Food Ireland founder and chief executive Margaret Jeffares also stressed recently that choosing to buy local is needed now more than ever.
“If 2020, has shown us anything it is the strong sense of solidarity that the public feels for our local hotels, restaurants, food shops, cafes, food and drink producers and other local businesses within our towns and villages,” she said.
She added that Good Food Ireland members are committed to sourcing ingredients locally in support of local farmers, food producers and fishermen, ensuring local jobs and businesses continue to remain viable.
Love Irish Food executive director Kieran Rumley said Covid-19 has been an unprecedented challenge to the sector.
As a material contributor to the local and national economies, it faces significant uncertainty, He said Irish food brands are increasingly being supported by shoppers, but Brexit will bring further complexity to an industry already over-burdened by the Covid-19 fallout.
Love Irish Food has called on shoppers to increase their support for locally produced food brands to ensure a strong, vibrant, and independent supply to supermarket shelves at a vital point in our economic history.
As the Christmas shopping spree intensifies, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has urged people to shop local and safely this Christmas.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, noting that small businesses employ over one million people and are a crucial part of the economy, said: “I hope we can all get behind them this Christmas.”
There are already signs that those appeals are having an impact. Recent research by Visa showed that shoppers are keen to repay local businesses for their work during lockdown, including the delivery of essential food and other items to vulnerable customers.