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Image dousing: Mother Jones takes on Fiji Water

August 17, 2009 |  6:30 am

Bottled water's image problems won't be helped by Mother Jones magazine's story on the making of Fiji Water as America’s No. 1 premium imported H2O -- set against the dark reality of the Fiji islands’ social and political conditions.

Fiji Water is owned by Lynda and Stewart Resnick, the Beverly Hills business magnates and marketing whizzes who also control the Teleflora flowers-by-wire service; an agricultural empire in the Central Valley; and POM Wonderful, which produces POM Wonderful pomegranate juice.

Fiji Water, Mother Jones notes, has "positioned itself squarely at the nexus of pop-culture glamour and progressive politics."

Fiji But "nowhere in Fiji Water's glossy marketing materials will you find reference to the typhoid outbreaks that plague Fijians because of the island's faulty water supplies; the corporate entities that Fiji Water has -- despite the owners' talk of financial transparency -- set up in tax havens like the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg; or the fact that its signature bottle is made from Chinese plastic in a diesel-fueled plant and hauled thousands of miles to its ecoconscious consumers."

The author, Anna Lenzer, is most vexed by what she regards as the company's unwillingness to challenge the oppressive military junta that has been in control of the country since 2006. For the junta, Lenzer writes, "Fiji Water is a major source of global recognition and legitimacy."

Of course, if U.S. companies could be counted on to challenge oppressive regimes, American retail shelves would be devoid of anything made in China. Try to imagine that.

Bottled water has been under attack by environmentalists for years for the carbon footprint involved in transporting the stuff around the globe. Lenzer addresses that issue, too, noting how Fiji Water insists that it's part of the carbon solution, not part of the problem.

The full Mother Jones story is here. If you drink Fiji you'll probably learn some things, even if you don't come away convinced that the company is actively abetting a dictatorship.

Fiji Water's response to Lenzer is here.

Why do people shell out so much for "premium" bottled water, anyway? More consumers must be asking themselves that question: The Washington Post reports that the bottled-water boom overall appears to have peaked, in part because newly penny-pinching consumers have found it to be such an easy expense to cut.

-- Tom Petruno


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