A class action lawsuit, filed in Connecticut, seeks damages from Nestle Waters, claiming its Poland Spring bottled water doesn't actually come from springs.
Eleven consumers are listed as plaintiffs in the case, charging Nestle has used the association between spring water and purity as a marketing ploy to sell, what the suit claims, is essentially filtered ground water, charging a premium price.
In a statement, Nestle Waters, based on Stamford, Conn., said the suit has no merit, and further branded it an attempt to “manipulate the the legal system for personal gain.” It also said Poland Spring meets the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) legal definition of spring water.
Defining spring water
In fact, the FDA's regulations covering bottled water and how it is defined are both extensive and specific. Among the criteria to be called spring water are:
- The water flows naturally to the surface of the earth
- The water is collected only at the spring or through a bore hole tapping the underground formation feeding the spring
- A natural force causes the water to flow to the surface through a natural orifice
- The location of the spring is identified
- Water collected with the use of an external force shall be from the same underground stratum as the spring, as shown by a measurable hydraulic connection using a hydrogeologically valid method between the bore hole and the natural spring, and shall have all the physical properties, before treatment, and be of the same composition and quality, as the water that flows naturally to the surface of the earth
This is not the first time the issue has been raised. The Portland (Maine) Press Herald reports Nestle Waters faced a similar lawsuit in 2003, with the plaintiffs alleging that the company's marketing was misleading about where the water originated.
According to the report, the suit was settled out of court, with the company providing about $8 million in consumer discounts and more than $2 million given to charitable organizations.
Bottled water has become big business in the U.S. over the last two decades. In March, Beverage Marketing Corporation reported that bottled water overtook carbonated beverages in U.S. sales last year.
"Bottled water effectively reshaped the beverage marketplace," said Michael Bellas, CEO of Beverage Marketing Corporation, said at the time. "When Perrier first entered the country in the 1970s, few would have predicted the heights to which bottled water would eventually climb.”
He says bottled water sales have increased every year from 1977 to 2016, with the exception of two year during the Great Recession.