“Enhanced” water: who’s ripping off who?

Consumers of the latest drink fad to hit New Zealand, “enhanced” water, may find themselves more confused than enthralled as four companies gun for a market stranglehold with near identical marketing, packaging and even content.

Beverages giant Glaceau originated the concept back in 1996 with its Vitamin Water range, and after screaming to prominence in hip-hop videos (including endorsement and company shareholding by rapper 50 Cent), award ceremonies and appearances in the hands of Hollywood starlets its success has now reached $US500 million in US sales annually.

The product appeared in US-based marketing and media bible Advertising Age in its list of “10 products that have rocked the world in the last decade”, alongside Google, Blackberry and Viagra.

With soft drink sales flattening and the trend toward health products booming worldwide, Coca Cola picked up the brand in 2007 for $US4.1 billion.

The main competitor, Nutrient Water, was brought back to Australia by expats who saw what Glaceau was doing in the US, and the two companies are now involved in a sales war for the thirsts of Australia’s hip youth.

Customer confusion has flowed over just how identical the two products are, right down to flavouring (even the more obscure - such as dragonfruit), packaging (including irreverent witticisms on the label) and even website similarities.

Both products target the youth-premium segment of the market – focusing on cafes and major music events rather than service stations and supermarkets.

Rather more interestingly, neither product is particularly healthy, boasting around 6-7 teaspoons of sugar in each bottle.

Nutrient Water launched in New Zealand first in February 2008, prompting Coke to rush its product to market here late last year alongside imitators Frucor’s Supplement Water and most recently Charlies’ Vitamin Water.

Coca Cola maintains it was always the plan to launch in New Zealand; its hand wasn’t forced, a spokeswoman told NBR.

“It was always part of the global plan for to launch in New Zealand. Our underarm buddies across the ditch snuck in ahead of us, but we had so many Kiwis returning from New York, London and Sydney seeking out their favourite Vitamin Water that we were pretty much compelled to press the go button in the last half of 2008,” she said.

Coca Cola Amatil has only begun to physically produce Glaceau Vitamin Water at its Mt Wellington plant this week, having previously imported the product from Sydney.

Despite giant Glaceau billboards popping up around Auckland and Wellington recently, Glaceau’s Ryland Wood says the company won’t be pushing the brand too hard, even as rivals push their products much more aggressively.

"Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Designer handbags such as Gucci, Chloe and Louis Vuitton have experienced the same "copy cat" versions entering the market, but people always prefer the original. Glaceau Vitamin Water is the New York original,” he said.

 

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8 Comments & Questions

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H2O that comes out of the tap is just as good or better than some of that from a bottle at great expense.

Your readers who subscribe the the Consumer magazine will know that , and those who buy the bottled stuff are living proof that there is a sucker born every minute.

The bottled water people will also go in for Patio Heaters , and try to warm the atmosphere .

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If you are going to pour scorn on people who choose to spend their own money on overpriced water, at least do so grammatically. "Who's ripping off WHOM" - please.

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"Who's ripping of [sic] who?"

That particular dative pronoun has largely been rendered defunct through common usage.

However, I'd suggest that, were you to attempt to take the wood chip out of the author's eye, you should first seek to remove the log in yours, and in doing so check your spelling.

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Wow, I am constantly amazed that people buy water in a bottle. Poster #1 is technically correct, if not grammatically so - water from the tap is fine. And yes poster #2 scorn is what should be poured over people buying bottled water, at least its cheaper than pouring bottled water over them.

But great marketing ploy - get water, add sugar, sell as a health product.

Hmmm if people really are *that* gullible maybe I should start a company promoting the health benefits of sea water (no added salt!) - 'from the pure Southern Seas of New Zealand'

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Have you considered perhaps that a drink that markets itself as "vitamin water" and comes a selection of gaudy colors...is not in fact trying to be plain old water?

Have you considered perhaps that soem people actually enjoy the taste of flavoured water? Well a taste that goes beyond council added fluride and old plumbing.

Maybe for some, like myself for instance, a drink that tastes good, is full of sugar and claims to have high levels of anti-oxidants is ideal to drink after something like a weight lifting session?

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Damn iPhone. Hate typinj on sich a small keyboard.
Sorry Sparky.

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Spanky, would you be so kind as to explain to (both) our readers why a dative pronoun would be rendered defunct through common usage - I would have thought it would be lack of use rather than common usage that would render it defunct.

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Why do articles like this always turn out to be an advert for Coca-Cola?

Its a competative buisness world. You should be encouraging competition. Especially new products made in NZ. Frucors Supplement water is only NZ made product until Coca-Cola started very recently.

The enhanced water has exploded world wide and it was always going to reach NZ. Coca-cola had the product but sat back patting their backs after Vitamin Water took Australia by storm.

I say well done to Nutrient Water and Frucor who say the hole in the market and launched their NZ products months before Coca-Cola.

Charlies as usual were late to the party and even copied the name. Guess they were taking their usual path and hoping for some controversy in the press to do the marketing for them.

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