Water is one of the fastest growing assets that Nestlé has

The poorest pay the most for clean drinking water. A top profit for Nestlé.

"Water must be our top priority" - Peter Brabeck, Chairman of Nestlé

Nestlé Chairman Peter Brabeck is leaving the human rights forum Lucerne

The wells have dried up next to Nestlé's Sheikupura factory in Pakistan

Pure Life is one of Nestlés top brands

"Nestlé is a predator, a water hunter." - Maude Barlow

Nestlé pays $10 for a tanker load of water. Once bottled in PET, Nestlé charges $50,000.

Closed gates for Investigator Res Gehriger. For Nestlé it is "the wrong film at the wrong time".

about the film

The Story

 

tl_files/images/the_fear/bl_nigeria_market_1.jpgWhile the world's population continues to grow at an alarming rate, water is becoming an increasingly scarce commodity. The Swiss film "Bottled Life" documents the booming business with bottled water, by focusing on the global leader in this lucrative multi-billion dollar market – namely, the Nestlé corporation in Switzerland. Nestlé currently controls more than 70 of the world's bottled water brands, among them Perrier, San Pellegrino and Vittel.

 

Nestlé's annual sales of bottled water alone total some CHF 10 billion. And yet the company prefers not to discuss its water business – as Swiss journalist Res Gehriger discovered when researching this documentary film. The Nestlé management refused to give any interviews or assistance or to provide information. But Gehriger persisted, and discovered just how controversial and conflict-laden the company's international operations are.

 

Water war in the USA

tl_files/images/investigator/bl_res_office_atnight.jpgTo be able to sell and make money from water, you first have to own it. In the case of Nestlé this applies to many parts of the United States, by far the biggest market for its booming bottled water business. Whoever owns land or has acquired leasing rights is permitted to pump as much water as he likes. In the rural state of Maine, Nestlé has purchased many such water rights and resources. Every year the company pumps out millions of cubic metres of water, for transportation in road tankers to huge bottling factories. In the small towns of Fryeburg, Newfield and Shapleigh, journalist Res Gehriger witnessed how Nestlé tries to stifle and suppress local opposition to its operations with an army of powerful PR consultants, lawyers and lobbyists.

 

Nestlé's expansion strategy

tl_files/images/investigator/bl_res_in_hollis.jpg"Bottled Life" focuses a critical spotlight on Nestlé's global expansion strategy in the business of bottled water. In the United States and Europe, the company sells mainly spring water with a designation of origin. In developing countries, however, the corporation pursues another concept – namely Nestlé Pure Life. This product is purified groundwater, enriched with a Nestlé mixture of minerals. Nestlé Pure Life was the brainchild of Peter Brabeck, a Nestlé man almost all his life, a former CEO and currently Chairman of the Board. Today Nestlé Pure Life is the world's top-selling brand of bottled water.

 

Test market Pakistan

tl_files/images/the_fear/bl_pakistani_drinking_purelife.jpgRes Gehriger's research took him to Pakistan, Nestlé's test market for its Pure Life product. The company refused him access to its production plant in Pakistan – but Gehriger did get to see something of life outside the factory fence. In the nearby village groundwater levels have fallen dramatically, and the village fountain water is nothing more than foul-smelling sludge.

Nestlé Pure Life is a clever business concept. And particularly so in the developing world. In countries such as Pakistan where the public water supply has failed or is close to collapse, the company proudly presents its bottled water as a safe health-enhancing alternative. But for the overwhelming majority of consumers, it is an expensive out-of-reach alternative. In Lagos, for example, the mega metropolis of Nigeria/Africa with its population of millions, water always comes at a price. The scenario of a city in which everyone has to pay for life-giving water, is already a sad reality in Lagos. Families eking out an existence in the slums spend half their meagre budget on canisters of water. The upper class?  They purchase Nestlé Pure Life.

 

Whitewashing the water business

tl_files/images/brabeck/bl_brabeck_close_3.jpgNestlé places great priority on promoting its image. And when it comes to water, it's Peter Brabeck in particular who does the promoting. As CEO – and even more so after becoming Chairman of the Board in 2005 – he developed a communications strategy which operates under such noble pretences as "Corporate Social Responsibility" and "Creating Shared Value." A preached philosophy – but a practised one?

In researching this film, journalist Res Gehriger comes to a sad and sobering conclusion. It is that of a company intent on amassing resource rights worldwide. With the aim of dominating the global water market of the future.

 
Ten things you should know
  1. Bottled water is one of the company's key strategic money makers: Nestlé has an annual turnover of CHF 110 billion – of which almost 10% is derived from the bottled water business.
  2. Nestlé has achieved world dominance in the bottled water business – by taking over such leading brands as Perrier.
  3. Nestlé is constantly buying up additional valuable groundwater resources – in order to satisfy the massive demand it has created for bottled water.
  4. Nestlé is taking advantage of the often out-of-date water rights in many locations by operating to the limits of legality – not only in developing countries but also in the USA and elsewhere in the industrialized world.
  5. Nestlé spares no effort in exerting financial, legal and political pressure – on anyone campaigning for water ownership as a public property and human right.
  6. Nestlé is using up precious natural water resources – to create and commercialize "new" water.
  7. Nestlé promotes bottled water with extensive global marketing and advertising campaigns – undermining awareness for the necessity of a functioning public water supply system.
  8. Nestlé promotes itself as a benefactor – by donation and PR campaigns at local level. But at the same time it manipulates public opinion into believing that improvements in production and distribution are having a sustainable effect.
  9. Nestlé creates dependence on bottled water – in particular where public waters supplies are close to collapse, and notably in developing countries.
  10. Nestlé's bottled water business is not simply a business like any other – it is a business with the sole natural resource essential for humanity's survival.
What is bottled water?

A short and simplified answer to a complicated question:

 

  

Natural mineral water
Natural mineral water is water from a geographically and clearly localized spring which fulfils legal requirements concerning mineral content and composition (for example, Perrier or Vittel).

 

 
 

Spring water
In the United States, spring water is bottled water which may be blended from various springs (as in our film, for example, Poland Spring in the state of Maine). However, it does not qualify as natural or classic mineral water.

In European Union countries bottled water defined as spring water must be filled direct from the source. However less stringent legal requirements apply concerning the mineral composition.

 
 
 

 

Other water
Bottled water companies like Nestlé, Coca Cola or Pepsi Cola often pump water from normal groundwater or buy it from public drinking water supply systems (in our film, for example, Nestlé Pure Life).

Nestlé and water

Company founder dealt in water as early as 1843

In 1843, Henri Nestlé – pioneer of milk powder for babies – set up a water factory in Vevey on Lake Geneva. From piped water he created and commercialized “mineral water”, selling his product to local restaurants. Later in life he purchased a retirement residence in nearby Glion, where he also acquired water rights. He used the water for his home and extensive gardens, donating the rest to the local population.

 

Nestlé on a shopping spree – from Vittel to Perrier and San Pellegrino

tl_files/images/business/bl_supermarket_1.jpgIn 1969 Nestlé acquired a holding in the French company, Société Générale des Eaux Minérales de Vittel. That was the company's entry into the world of water. And bottled water in particular.

In 1976 world market leader Perrier (then a French company with tradition) entered the US market. Nestlé took over distribution of Perrier's popular teardrop-shaped bottles – and watched and wondered as the Perrier product quickly made its mark on young urban America.

Bottled water soon became an attractive alternative to sweetened soft drinks such as Coca Cola and Pepsi. It was thirst-quenching, calorie-free and in keeping with the trend towards more healthy nutrition. The bottled water industry expanded, sales were soon soaring.

In 1989 Nestlé Chairman Helmut Maucher and Head of Marketing Peter Brabeck decided to make bottled water production a priority, with the aim of becoming world leader. Nestlé launched a takeover bid for Perrier and after a bitter battle won control of the French company. With the acquisition of Perrier, many regional brands in the USA – among them popular Poland Spring – also came under the control of Nestlé.

LINK Nestlé Waters North America

 

As with Perrier, Nestlé also swallowed up the Italian San Pellegrino brand in 1997.

LINK Nestlé Waters

 

One water for the whole world – Pure Life

tl_files/images/business/bl_purlife_machine.jpgVittel, Perrier and San Pellegrino are mineral waters which come from a single specific source.

Poland Spring and other regional US brands are described by Nestlé as natural spring water. These waters come from different sources which are often a long distance from each other.

Mineral and natural spring waters are targeted mainly at consumers with higher purchasing power or (in developed countries) at a broad middle class.

In 1997 Nestlé started to develop a new product created from purified ground water enriched with a new special mix of minerals. The advantage of this water is that it can be produced worldwide with the same taste. The name – Nestlé Pure Life. With this product Nestlé began targeting a vast new market, namely consumers in developing countries. Today, Pure Life is the top selling bottled water on the planet.

Contact

International Distribution & FESTIVALS

RISE AND SHINE WORLD SALES UG
Schlesische Str. 29/30
10997 Berlin
Germany

fon +49 30 4737 2980
fax +49 172 4162879

www.riseandshine-berlin.de

 

 

Distribution Germany / Austria

W-film Distribution
Gotenring 4
50679 Köln
Germany

fon +49 221 222 1980
fax +49 221 222 1981
www.wfilm.com / www.bottledlife.wfilm.de

 

 

Distribution Switzerland

Frenetic Films AG
Bachstrasse 9
CH - 8038 Zürich
Switzerland

fon +41 44 488 44 00
fax +41 44 488 44 11
www.frenetic.ch

 

 

Production

DokLab GmbH
Gerberngasse 34a
3011 Bern
Switzerland


fon +41 31 508 05 58
fax +41 31 508 03 55
www.doklab.com

 

 

Co-Production

EIKON Südwest GmbH
Talstrasse 41
D-70188 Stuttgart
Germany


fon +49 711 248 34 66
fax +49 711 248 34 77

www.eikon-suedwest.de

Crew

Director URS SCHNELL

Investigation RES GEHRIGER

Director of Photography LAURENT STOOP

Editor SYLVIA SEUBOTH-RADTKE

Creative Director DODO HUNZIKER

Script URS SCHNELL/RES GEHRIGER

Narration written by RES GEHRIGER/MARTIN WITZ

Voice of German Narration HANSPETER MÜLLER-DROSSAART

Voice of English Narration TREVOR J. ROLING

Music IVO UBEZIO

Sound Design BJÖRN WIESE

Sound Editing & Mix MANUEL FISCHER

Colourist PETER PFANNER

Musicians RICCARDO PARRINO/THOMAS AESCHBACHER/OLI KUSTER

Pakistani Chant MATT HILL/MANICKAM YOGESWARAN

Direct Sound Recording DO2

Music Mix BEN MÜHLETHALER

Narration Recording DAVID BOLLINGER/WOLFGANG SCHUBERT/FLO GOETZE/ PETER VON SIEBENTHAL

Production Manager MAX KARLSSON/METTE GUNNAR

Production Assistant MANUEL UEBERSAX

Location Manager New York DENISE LANGENEGGER

Location Manager Addis Abeba FIREW AYELE

Location Manager Lagos OJI CHUKWUEMEKA RODERICK

Location Manager Lahore MICHAEL KASHIF/SAMUEL ASIF

Helicopter Camera SAMUEL GYGER

 

Additional Camera

PIERRE REISCHER

M. YOUSAF AWAN

SIMON HUBER BRUNO

ZEMP JULIEN CASSEZ

MALCOLM HUTCHESON

 

Translation German-French PIERRE SOLTERMANN/LAURENCE STRASSER

Translation German-English COLIN FARMER

Translation Punjabi M. AYYUB KULLA

Translation Egun DAVIES FALEYE/MATHEW

Translation Igbo FRED PRAISE ABIMBOLA

Translation Somali INTER TRANSLATIONS SA

 

Producer

URS SCHNELL

CHRISTIAN DREWING

DODO HUNZIKER

 

Co-Producer

SCHWEIZER FERNSEHEN SRF – URS AUGSTBURGER

SRG-SSR PACTE – URS FITZE/ALBERTO CHOLLET

ARTE G.E.I.E – CHRISTIAN COOLS

WESTDEUTSCHER RUNDFUNK WDR – JUTTA KRUG

Public Funding BERNER FILMFÖRDERUNG, KANTON BERN

BERNER FILMFÖRDERUNG, STADT BERN

AARGAUER KURATORIUM

FILMFÖRDERUNG BADEN-WÜRTTEMBERG/D

BUNDESAMT FÜR KULTUR, SEKTION FILM

 

Legal Advisor RUDOLF MAYR VON BALDEGG

 

 

Cast

PETER BRABECK

RES GEHRIGER

RUQUYA ABDI AHMED

BEKELE NEGASH

MAUDE BARLOW

EMILY FLETCHER

MICHAEL DANA

HOWARD K. DEARBORN

JOHN GOLDFALL

JOHN DILL

ANN WINN-WENTWORTH

EILEEN HENNESSY

SHELLY GOBEILLE

DENISE L. CARPENTER

JOHN HARRIS

AHMAD RAFAY ALAM

IQBAL MARSHAL

GILL SHANTEE C

HANA KHOKHAR

SABIHA KHAN

EHSAN UL HAQUE

UMAR HAYAT

ZANIB BIBI

MUHAMAD SHAMUN DAGAR

JOHN O. EGBUTA

MARY SETONDJI

KELVIN OLAGEMJU KAYODE

GENE BERGOFFEN

JOHN V. JOHNSON

HANNAH WARREN

GLORIA GERRY

FRANC MANDUCA

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