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TRENDS: Bottled Water News & Blues

San Pellegrino Water
To drink, or not to drink: That is the question.
  Americans consume 97.5 liters of bottled water per capita (25.76 gallons), according to Nestlé, the world’s largest water bottler. In 2006, 8.25 billion gallons’ worth of bottled water was sold, a 9.5% increase over 2005. More bottled water is sold than milk, and it almost has caught up to beer. According to the economic consulting firm ECONorthwest, bottled water sales are expected to exceed carbonated soft drinks in overall sales volume in the next decade. Nestlé, which sells 72 brands of bottled water in 37 countries, had a 38.5% market share of the North American market in 2006. The company’s brands include imports Aqua Panna, Contrex, Perrier, San Pellegrino and Vittel; U.S. brands Arrowhead, Deer Park, Ice Mountain, Ozarka, Poland Spring and Zephyr Hills; and brands under the Nestlé label, such as Aquarel. The introduction of flavored water and enhanced water (water with added vitamins, herbs and extracts) has aided growth of bottled water. Both represent a small, yet rapidly-growing, segment of the market—197% for flavored water and 41.7% for enhanced water in 2005, the most recent year for which statistics are available. These products are typically made from filtered, municipal tap water or well water rather than from spring water; Twist, which we reviewed recently, uses artesian well water (it’s also kosher and organic).
All is not rosy, in watervile, however. ECONorthwest does stress that the bottled water industry is coming under increased scrutiny for a number of its practices. Something so seemingly healthy is the antithesis of “green.” The bottling process is very inefficient: Nestlé, for example, reports that it requires 1.86 liters of water to produce one liter of bottled water. The landfill of plastic bottles—more than 75% of bottles are never recycled—has environmentalists up in arms. The fuel usage and emissions that arise from trucking so many billions of gallons of water around the country (and shipping water around the world) has a negative environmental impact. There are also questions regarding the purity of bottled water, which is not inspected by the government, compared to tap water, which is rigidly checked by municipalities. Finally, communities that have aquifers (underground sources of water) find large water companies moving into their towns to pump and sell their water. In towns like Fryeburg, Maine, Poland Spring pumps 200 million gallons a year from the local aquifer (water that locals say should be flowing naturally into the local pond), bottles it, and, in the words of community organizers, “wears out our roads trucking it out of town.” While Poland Spring has offered free cases of bottled water to the first 50 people who come to their office in Fryeburg for “hot coffee and real communication,” a local advocate, Howard Dearborn, is offering $10 to the first 50 people who pour their Poland Spring water “back into Lovewell’s Pond, where it belongs.” It’s a 21st-century Boston Tea party. Read more at and environmental concerns have begun to affect consumer behavior and could slow or reverse the growth in what has been a spectacular market. Examples, previously reported in Gourmet News & Views, include directives from city governments, led by San Francisco, to cease purchase of bottled water with city funds; and the cessation of sale of bottled water by some restaurants. However, fine bottled water that is enjoyed for its unique properties—like Perrier, San Pellegrino and Vittel makes up a small amount, perhaps 15%, of water sales in the U.S. The bulk of sales goes into gallons, five-gallon containers, and the millions of filtered tap water products like Aquafina and Dasani, for which there are alternativs—filters on water taps, and Better Water Drinking Water Filter Bottle, a refillable, biodegradable plastic bottle made from corn resident with a built-in filter that makes tap water taste great, is good for 90 uses. Each biodegradable bottle saves 90 plastic bottles from landfill. We highly recommend it as a holiday gift, for everyone you know who totes around water bottles.

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REVIEW: Holiday Liquor Gifts

If you’re in the spirit to purchase spirits as holiday gifts—or to stock your own bar—here are a few we thought noteworthy this year:
– Canton Ginger and Cognac Liqueur
– Chivas Regal Aged 25 Years (Limited Edition)
– Rogue Spirits Hazelnut Spice Rum and Spruce Gin
– St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
– Van Gogh Double Espresso Vodka
Read the full review to find out why we liked them. Find more of our favorite spirits, plus cocktail recipes, in the Cocktails & Spirits Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.
  Chivas Regal 25 Years Old
Limited-edition 25-year-old Chivas is a nice way to celebrate the holidays.

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L: KITCHENWARES: OXO Good Grips Sink Strainer

The best sink strainer: We’re so happy!
  If you’re in the market for a sink strainer, this is the best there is. We say that, having tried about 12 of them over the past three years, as the original steel drain that came with our 40-year-old sink went kaput. Since then, we’ve tried every sink drain cup, strainer and device sold by every hardware store, kitchen store and website that crossed our path. Evidently, OXO listened to people with problems like ours—unfortunates who live without sink trash disposals, who have to clear away every last scrap of onion or tea leaf by hand. The OXO sink strainer—which is much more attractive than it appears in their photo—is a stainless steel rim with a pliant silicone perforated cup. You empty the strainer simply by pulling on the handle and reversing the basket.
But if you don’t even want to lift the strainer out of the sink, you can actually scoop them out with a spoon. Of all the $150 appliances we’ve tested this year, here is one simple, $6.99 gadget that is truly useful, and actually works exactly as it should. We’re not surprised, because everything we’ve tried from OXO Good Grips has been superior to what we previously had. But we have to take a minute to say: Thanks, OXO: You solved our problem. Available at

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FREEBIE: Terra Chips Serving Bowl

Terra Chips are one of our favorite snacks. The elegant root chips—crispy slices of batata, parsnip, sweet potato and taro instead of regular potato chips (the red ones are colored taro, not beet, which is too difficult to work with)—are so elegant with cocktails. The folks at Terra Chips are offering a free Lucite jumbo martini glass (a.k.a. Terra Tini) with two proofs of purchase, plus $2.99 for shipping and handing. We question the stated retail value—you can buy a jumbo glass martini glass for that. But for $2.99, the price is right; and some people actually prefer the non-breakable plastic (we don’t because it scratches, and we’re not so gentle). You can find details plus a $1.00 coupon for the two packages of Terra Chips needed for proofs of purchase in the FSI* of today’s newspapers. Or, go to for details on the Terra Tini (no $1.00 coupon, though. Read more about our favorite snacks in the Snacks Section of THE NIBBLE online magazine.   Terra Chips
Snack elegantly with Terra Chips.
*FSI stands for Free-Standing Insert, which food manufacturers call the coupon section inserted into the Sunday paper.

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REVIEW: Best Food Book Gifts

Mario Batali
Chef or emperor? Mario Batali is one of 50 memorable portraits by Melanie Dunea in her book, My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs And Their Final Meals.
  So many books…so little time. When we looked at all of the food books published this year to put together our holiday gift lists, we found wonderful ideas for everyone—and while the books stand on their own, we paired most of them with actual food products for an even bigger gift. A few were published in prior years, but they’re not so well-known; we find them so valuable that we’d be grateful to get them as a gift. To develop expertise in specific areas of food, we have books on chocolate, crab, oysters and truffles (the fungus). For food history, Alice Waters & Chez Panisse, Moveable Feasts, a book on the history of food from farm to table that is a real page-turner, and the snarky The Food Snob’s Dictionary, a good stocking stuffer. There are many more, including cookbooks. But one that every foodie must own is My Last Supper by Melanie Dunea, intimate portraits of 50 top chefs who describe their last meals. Dunea’s photography is stunning—each portrait is as special as Mario Batali’s, at left. Read the full review. See many more gift ideas in the Gift Finder of THE NIBBLE online magazine.

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