Pepsi’s Billion Dollar Bottled Water Woes
In April, two Wisconsin men sued Pepsi for allegedly stealing their water purification and bottling trade secrets and using them to make billions on their bottled Aquafina brand water. When Pepsi failed to appear at a September 30 hearing, the court awarded the men a $1.26 billion judgment against the company.
Pepsi’s corporate lawyers never heard about the case until the judgment was ordered, even though lawyers for two Pepsi bottling companies did appear at hearings in June and July. Explaining that oversight, PepsiCo spokesman Joe Jacuzzi (yes, the spokesperson for PepsiCo in this water dispute really is named Jacuzzi) stated, “It’s just another unfortunate thing that didn’t come together.”
Controversy over its bottled water is nothing new for Pepsi, although its previous issues have not been so costly or embarrassing. In 2007, Reuters reported that PepsiCo would identify on labels that its bottled water came from tap water sources, in response to criticism of marketing claims about the superiority of Aquafina. Despite the change, a recent report by the Environmental Working Group found that Pepsi and other bottled water makers make less information about their products available than public water suppliers do. EWG found that most bottled water companies do not fully disclose the source of their water, the methods of treatment used, or the amounts of types of pollutants found in their water testing. As the EWG report notes, “(T)ap water suppliers are required to disclose water quality testing results to their consumers, (but) the FDA only requires that bottlers maintain testing records….” In the EWG report card accompanying the report, PepsiCo’s Aquifina earned a “D” grade.