Recent studies show that people of color are spending more of their household income on bottled water than white Americans. In a study from the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, “minority children were exclusively given bottled water 3 times more often than non-Latino white children.” So why are groups that are largely less wealthy than white people carving out a chunk of a perhaps tight budget for a good that is so unnecessary and expensive?
Some experts point to increased bottled water ad campaigns targeting minorities as the cause of this phenomenon. Coca Cola and Nestle, owners of Dasani and Poland Spring respectively, are structuring their advertising campaigns to specifically focus on African American and Latino mothers who commonly control household spending. It’s working.
Forbes Magazine reports that a significant portion of people of color are convinced that bottled water is healthier, cleaner and safer than the virtually free stuff that comes from the tap. But Forbes notes the evidence pointing toward the contrary: “A National Resources Defense Council investigation discovered that 17% of bottled waters contained unsafe levels of bacterial loads, and 22% were contaminated with chemicals, including arsenic.”
Bottled water campaigns use the healthy angle to tout water as the smart choice for mothers who want the best for their families. In a way, that’s true. Research suggests that substituting water for sugary drinks “could result in up to 235 fewer extra calories per day being taken in by children and adolescents.” But mothers can encourage an increase in water consumption without doling out gobs of money for bottled water.
Despite the arguments against consuming bottled water, namely the personal financial and environmental costs, I think some people of color still avoiding tap water as a result of these carefully placed ad campaigns. A corporation using fear mongering to rake in customers—in this case by intimating that not buying their brand means putting your children at risk of drinking dirty water—is nothing new, but I think it’s unfortunate that this marketing ploy is contributing to the financial burden on low-income communities. Read more here.