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How is a bottled water market created?

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From the 1940s until 2015, while the French population grew 60%, the bottled water per capita consumption grew 2350%, from 6 L to about 140 L per person, per year. These figures rank France as one of the biggest bottled water markets in the world. Contrary to other top water markets, most of France's population has access to good quality tap water, which is trusted and consumed by most of its citizens. I explain this paradox, analyzing the creation and development of the French bottled water market. Based on data on the history of mineral water, marketing, and consumer behavior, I describe the origins and development of this market, highlighting the most important historical events and laws that created the economic and political conditions that shaped its structure and regulation. I analyze the influence of food and beverage groups like Nestlé, Danone, and Group Castel/Alma (Neptune), demonstrating how these companies radically reshaped the market structure through aggressive strategies of merger and acquisitions of smaller companies and their brands. I also examine how their marketing strategies and actions transformed the cultural meaning of water, gradually shifting from a banal, life‐essential good into a commodity that connects to a range of different cultural images, lifestyles, and changing consumers’ tastes and behavior. I also situate bottled water markets into the wider debate of water politics and policy. WIREs Water 2018, 5:e1220. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1220 This article is categorized under: Human Water > Value of Water Human Water > Water as Imagined and Represented
Timeline of merges and acquisitions of bottled water brands in France. Notes: (1) The figure depicts the three groups (Nestlé, Danone, and Neptune) that have market share (in revenue) above 5% and their individual brand names whose market share is above 1%; (2) The arrows represent the timeline of each of the three groups, the acquisitions and merges in ownership of their brands. The arrows start approximately when the group/brand entered on the market or when they were acquired by another company/group; (3) The font size and the arrows width represent an approximate proportion of the market share (in revenue) of each group or individual brand in 2015. Sources: Auby, Chambriard, Euromonitor, Eurostaf, and Fourcat.
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Tap water advertising from the Syndicat des Eaux d'Île‐de‐France. (Reprinted with permission for Ref. . Copyright 2005 Sircome.)
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