Ingredient Focus: Water
New developments in the water industry
1 Packaging pride
For once, water companies need their customers to judge the book by its cover. Many brands are looking at revamping their bottles, whether for special occasions or whether it was simply considered time for a change in the design.
Acqua Panna, for example, celebrated its 450th anniversary with a new look in honour of its Tuscan origin. The brand and the Tuscany region signed an official agreement in June 2014, according to which Acqua Panna will carry the Tuscany Taste logo on its bottles that the region had created for the 100% Tuscan products of excellence. This has previously been given only to wine producers deemed worthy.
In addition to this, the bottle label has been re-styled to make it more ‘Tuscan-looking’ to become an ambassador for the region.
S.Pellegrino international business unit director Giorgio Mondovì says: “We are honoured to mark the bottles of Acqua Panna throughout the world with an emblem that highlights the strong connection between this mineral water and its native territory to celebrate this important anniversary.”
Evian is another water brand that recently created a new bottle design. Elio Pacheco, general manager of evian, Badoit and volvic export, says: “After more than a decade, we decided to give the bottle a more contemporary look and retire the previous award-winning bottle design. With the new evian bottle, we underline the importance not only of purity but of appearance.”
Meant to show off a ‘label-less’ look, the front features a simplified reduction of the previous logo design. A panorama of mountains hints to the water's source in a corner of the French Alps. The brand’s story is told on the back of the bottle, and ‘evian’ is carved into the base as a playful design touch.
2 Plastic goes far away
Not just in terms of recycling, but the dangers of using plastic bottled water have been well-documented. Is there a trend to stop using it?
Dubai-based Tom & Serg co-founder Tom Arnel said: “Home water filtration systems are now more accessible and affordable than they once were. In a place like Dubai where water from the tap is undrinkable, the convenience of buying a filtration system is more economical and sustainable than buying plastic bottled water.”
Arnel says not using plastic bottled water is a new trend. He explains: “More and more people are adopting this trend, however, it is still a relatively new concept in the region. We suspect that as increased attention is brought to sustainability efforts in the region, the adoption of filtered water will become more popular and we will begin seeing more residents moving away from plastic bottles.”
3 Recycling at the forefront
Caterer has been told that recycling in Dubai is difficult, as when restaurants separate waste, it goes back into one pool again. However, this is not stopping water companies from encouraging the practice.
Voss Water regional director — GCC & Indian Ocean Will Foster says the company is proud of its corporate responsibility initiatives, on both a social and environmental level. He explains: “Our sustainability initiative is driven around our continued pursuit of carbon neutrality. To help this, we have teamed up with 3Degrees which is our sustainability partner. 3Degrees’ mission is to offset the impact of climate change by accelerating the development of a low-carbon, renewable energy economy.”
What does this mean for water bottles produced by Voss? Foster reveals: “All our bottles, including our iconic glass and plastic (PET) bottles are recyclable. Each bottle carries the international ‘recycle’ symbol above the barcode. At Voss we strongly urge our consumers, and non-Voss consumers too, not only to recycle water bottles but all their household waste.”
Qatar Luxury Group’s La Varenne restaurant general manager Ritesh Verma says that while in Qatar, glass is not popularly recycled, there is definitely a change coming. He says: “There is an increased focus on recycling efforts, and as drinks bottles accounts for a large amount of plastic that is disposed, I am sure it will be addressed in the near future.”
There is a growing trend in the region for consumers to ask for local water, and they are not impressed if the restaurant only has imported bottles.
However, many F&B outlets are now not only providing a choice between the two, but are offering local water for free. Caterer has previous reported that Urban Bistro in Dubai Media City was one outlet carrying out this practice, and since many others have come to light as doing the same.
One of these is Tom & Serg and its co-founder Sergio Lopez says: “As water can equal approximately 15% of sales in a casual dining restaurant, most Dubai outlets are unwilling to let this go and replace it with a free water service, even if filtration systems are more accessible than ever.
The gesture of giving the customer a free glass of water is greatly appreciated as is more affordable and environmentally friendly. This is still something that has not really taken off in Dubai but we will see its rise coincide with the new wave of casual eateries popping up around the city.”
Verma adds: “Many guests opt for imported water. but we offer local water for breakfast at no charge.”
5 Sparkling vs Still
With bubbles or without? This is a question that divides customers, so what does the Middle East want?
Voss’ Foster notes: “What we have seen through VOSSDirect and within the Horeca trade in the UAE and wider GCC is that the consumer preference is towards still water.”
Tom & Serg’s Arnel, however, says sparkling water seems to sell very well in the market as the added sodium helps replenish the body and quenches thirst on a hot day.
Verma adds that a majority of local guests in the Middle East prefer still water, “however, as we have a good international clientele base, I would say the ratio is 2:1.”
While origins of any ingredient are usually of interest to consumers, it’s a new trend to check where water has been sourced from.
Foster agrees. “The issue of water provenance is becoming increasingly important to the consumer, in a similar manner to the trend we have seen in the food industry — with a renewed focus on organic/free-range produce.”
La Varenne’s Verma says this is not the case. He explains: “In my opinion, consumers do not care so much about the provenance when it comes to water.
“However, there are some guests who have a lot of international exposure and very particular about what they eat and drink and these are the guests who would most certainly check the origin of water.”
7 Tasting sessions
You may not know it, but in wine pairing sessions, water plays an extremely important role. Evian’s Pacheco says it’s important to cleanse your palate between courses and wines with a sip or two of water.
He explains: “Choosing a naturally sparkling mineral water such as Badoit will not leave an after-taste in your mouth. By cleansing your palate you are aiming to eliminate the flavours of the previous course or wine so you are free to enjoy and experience new flavours to the fullest.”
While the trend of pairing water with food is also new and is seen more in Europe, Pacheco says it’s a matter of time before this will become natural in the region.
He explains: “With more and more fine dining locations in the Middle East as well as chefs who understand the importance of highlighting the flavours of their creations via perfect pairings, we anticipate that the market will grow. In principle, when you have a perfectly created dish that appeals to your palette, it is also essential to have a good pairing to make the most of a gastronomic experience.”