At New York’s Del Posto, diners can share a $130 entree of wild branzino fish with roasted fennel and peperonata concentrato and a $3,600 bottle of Dom Perignon. They cannot share a bottle of Perrier or San Pellegrino water.
The Italian restaurant backed by celebrities Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich is one of several shunning bottled water, along with the city of San Francisco and New York state.
“The argument for local water is compelling and obvious,” said Bastianich, who is phasing out bottled water across his restaurant empire, which stretches to Los Angeles.
“It’s about transportation, packaging, the absurdity of moving water all over the world,” he said.
As environmental worries cut into sales from traditionally lucrative bottled water, beverage companies such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle and SABMiller are becoming more attuned to the risks of negative consumer environmental perceptions.
Water is becoming scarcer, raising a fear that so-far manageable price increases could spike and leading drink companies to take action to maintain access to water and fight their image as water hogs.
“Water is the new oil,” said Steve Dixon, who manages the Global Beverage Fund at Arnhold & S. Bleichroeder, repeating what has become a mantra as climate change and population growth tax water supplies.
“As an investor, I’m not concerned about the reality,” Dixon said, guessing there will always be enough water overall. “But I’m aware of the perceptions … and you can’t totally shrug it off because perceptions are important.”