Bottled Water Industry Vital Player In SA Economy

While certainly not the largest contributor to South Africa’s economy, the bottled water industry plays a vital role by employing 1 800 people and generating sales of R3 550-million.

This was the message from South African National Bottled Water Association chairman, John Weaver, to delegates at SANBWA’s Bottled Water Conference taking place in Midrand, Gauteng, today (Monday July 16).

SANBWA was formed in 1997 as a standard setting and representative body. Membership of SANBWA is voluntary but strictly controlled, and comprises bottlers of all classes of bottled water (natural, defined by origin and prepared) whose primary concern is the health, safety and pleasure of their consumers.

Its role is to promote the image and reputation of bottled water through adherence to global benchmarked standards, while continuously improving and protecting the conservation of all water resources wherever possible. The bottled water has in it included added minerals and other vital elements. To demonstrate the importance of pure water, many companies have come up with products like under sink water filter, water softeners, etc.

Weaver highlighted that despite often being accused of depleting South Africa’s water resources, the bottled water industry uses surprising little water, and is based on sustainability.

He said the South African bottled water industry’s water usage benchmark is 1.8:1, but there are plants that achieve ratios of as low as 1.2:1.

This water usage benchmark equates to a water usage rate of 22.7 litres/second. This is less than that used by just two 18 hole golf courses during the course of a year and equal to that used by just one 45 hectare export fruit farm. Two golf courses and one export fruit farm also employ far fewer people than the bottled water industry.

Weaver added that South African legislation covering the use of groundwater is well developed, and is directed towards ensuring the sustainability of our water resources, rather than depleting them.

“When assessing the sustainability of South Africa’s groundwater, consideration has to be given to the groundwater recharge rate, and then ensuring that this rate is not exceeded,” he said.

“Groundwater is a highly desirable resource for the bottled water industry in South Africa because it is largely unpolluted and renewable.

“The total water consumption by the bottled water industry (production volumes plus incidental use) in 2011 was 0.72 million m3. This equates to only 0.013% of the country’s total groundwater usage.”

Chairman of the European Federation of Bottled Water, Hubert Genieys, shared the challenges and opportunities his organisation is facing with delegates in the belief that sharing information will benefit the industry worldwide.

“Key challenges facing the Federation include ownership of healthy hydration, protection and  promotion of quality specificities, and recognition of social role and environmental performances strategy,” he said.

“EFBW’s strategy is to lead and align industry behind a same roadmap with simple messages by ascribing to a select few initiatives with credible third party endorsement tactics. These include setting up dedicated expert working groups, promoting bottled water at EU forums and in EU publications, engaging with parliamentary members and developing a dedicated toolbox to engage our targets.”

Other speakers on the opening day of the conference included Chris Dunn of standards development, product certification, auditing, education and risk management concern NSF International; Andrew Murray of a consultancy by the same name, and Ronel Burger and Fiona van der Linde of CGCSA: GS1.

GS1 is a neutral, not-for-profit organisation operating in 110 countries, dedicated to the design and implementation of global standards, technologies and solutions to improve the efficiency of supply and demand chains by adding useful information to any exchange of goods or services.

Dunn addressed delegates on PET recycling, PET being the plastic used to make bottled water bottled, and reviewed the methods of treatment available for water used in the manufacturing of bottled water. Here he discussed the methods that destroy pathogens within the time available for disinfection and help assure the safety and quality of products. Guidelines for water quality and filtration are to be found at:

Murray spoke about the fact that South Africa does not have a certifiable standard for the construction of hygienic food processing equipment.  He talked delegates through the international standard ISO 14159:2002   Safety of Machinery – Hygienic requirements for the design of machinery, which has been adopted as a voluntary South African National Standard, as well as the value of SANS14159 has been referenced in the new SANS 10049: Food Safety management – Requirements for prerequisite programmes.

Burger focussed on product safety and recall in South Africa. She said that the ability to remove products from the market quickly and effectively is vital to every food producer and distributor but highlighted that, even though a number of organisations have detailed consumer safety food recall processes, there is an uneven approach to consumer safety product recalls within the South African market.

This is a glaring shortcoming as all consumers need to be able to trust that the country’s food industry will recall products with a potential or actual consumer safety risk and that recalled, unsafe food products will be handled appropriately. (Bottled water is regarded by South African legislation as a packaged food.)

Van der Linde informed delegates how to implement a traceability system within a supply chain. It requires all parties involved to systematically link the physical flow of materials and products with the flow of information about them. This requires a holistic view of the supply chain, which is best attained by deploying a common business language, she said.

SANBWA’s conference is running in parallel to DrinkTech, the exhibition for the bottled water industry that takes place every second year, Africa’s Big Seven (AB7) exhibition, a ‘seven-in-one’ exhibition covering the entire food and beverage industry from ‘crop to shop’.

PETCO, the industry organisation responsible for PET recycling in South Africa, and bespoke recycling and waste handling engineering solutions company – Akura Manufacturing, are demonstrating the first stage of PET recycling at the conference.

They have brought a baler to the exhibition and conference venue to take care of the PET bottle waste generated during the SANBWA conference. These bales will be incorporated into Gallagher Estate’s waste management programme and sent for further recycling. PETCO also put up an exhibit illustrating other stages in the recycling process.

For further information about SANBWA and the conference go to

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