Sunday, April 13, 2008

Consumer Safety Concerns - Will this concern Nalgene?

On the Today Show on April 9th, a consumer alert was issued regarding the safety of plastic beverage containers. This isn't the first time many of us may have heard about the dangers of polycarbonates. For instance, we've been told over and over again not to microwave food in plastic for fear chemicals will leak into consumables. Even more recently, we've been told not to re-use plastic water/soda bottles since even after washing them, germs and bacteria can remain. We are also told not to purchase bottled water for environmental reasons since around 8 out of 10 plastic bottles end up in landfills. Now, it seems we also need to be concerned with chemicals from the plastic bottles leaking into our beverages and negatively impacting our health.

In The Financial Post on February 23, 2008, Hollie Shaw reports "Bottled water consumption has been on the rise, but will fears of chemical contamination spur consumers to head for the taps?...Should you guzzle your H20 from disposable or refillable plastic bottles --both have come under intense scrutiny in the past year for possible health and environmental effects-- or from trendy refillable metal canteens? And, is it better to imbibe tap water, which critics caution can contain traces of anything from hormones to nitrates?" Much of the concern with durable polycarbonate bottles is in regards to the bottle leaking harmful levels of Bisphenol A, also known as BPA, into beverages. BPA is a substance that can interfere with hormone function and mimics estrogen. Scott Belcher, professor of pharmacology and cell biophysics at the University of Cincinnati has been involved with various BPA studies. Scott and his team discovered that when the liquids in polycarbonate bottles were heated up to boiling, BPA leeching occurred 55 times faster than at room temperature ( What sort of negative impact this may have on consumers’ health is still being studied, although most speculate this probably isn't a good thing.

Water bottle manufacturer Nalgene (, a Rochester, N.Y.-based company, has based its brand image on brightly colored plastic bottles and an eco-friendly reputation. In October of last year, Brand Channel, in an article entitled "Fantastic Plastic" reported: "(Nalgene) bottles have even spawned urban legends that they are unbreakable...over time, those outdoors people came to adopt Nalgene as one of the top companies for camping equipment." Although starting as a popular item with outdoorsy types, Nalgene has attracted a rather large market over the years now being found in mass quantities on college campuses and in fitness facilities. However, with all of this media hype and studies being done by scientists, will this company who has been so dependent on plastic water containers suffer a severe loss in sales due to consumers' mistrust even if they modified their bottles to be made out of another material?
A statement regarding BPA is on Nalgene's website. It reads: “As a responsible manufacturer of polycarbonate consumer products, Nalge Nunc International has monitored scientific research concerning the safety of our products including Bisphenol-A for many years. Based on the findings of the Food and Drug Administration, The Environmental Protection Agency, The American Plastics Council and other reliable sources from around the world, we continue to firmly believe in the safety of our products.” Although HDPE (high density polyethylene) bottles are still considered to be safe, I don’t know this statement buried several links back in Nalgene's website is enough. I think the company may be doing a great disservice to their brand image by not eliminating BPA-containing materials from their products. Consumers are being bombarded with all sorts of information these days and have to decide whether to believe a trusted brand or the media/scientific studies. Presently it seems they are leaning towards believing what they hear on T.V. since sales of metal bottles are exploding (ex/ Sigg (, Klean Kanteen ( Wonder if Nalgene will wake up and take notice...
04/24/08 - Follow-up: I just found the following article on The Denver Post and it looks like Nalgene is definitely doing the right thing to protect their brand. They plan to phase out production of BPA containing bottles over the next several months.

Nalgene to Phase Out Production of Consumer Bottles Containing BPA
Business Wire News Releases
Published: 04/18/08 08:30 AM EDT

In response to consumer demand, Nalgene® will phase out production of its Outdoor line of polycarbonate containers that include the chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA) over the next several months, it announced today. Nalgene’s existing product mix, including the recently launched Everyday line, already features a number of containers made from materials that do not contain BPA.

“We have always been focused on responding to the needs and concerns of our customers,” said Steven Silverman, general manager of the Nalgene business. “With 10 different product lines in several different materials, we have the largest bottle offering on the market today. By eliminating containers containing BPA from our consumer product mix, our customers can have confidence that their needs are being met.”
The company recently unveiled its Everyday line, an assortment of bottles manufactured with Eastman’s Tritan™ copolyester. The line includes favorites such as the OTG (“On the Go”), the iconic 32-ounce Wide Mouth and the Grip-N-Gulp sippy cup. Tritan is impact resistant, withstands a wide range of temperatures and does not contain BPA. The new Everyday products are already available in stores and will be available through next month.

To help consumers easily determine the bottle and material that is right for them, Nalgene also recently launched Nalgene Choice™, an online information resource at Nalgene Choice provides consumers with information to help them understand the features and benefits of Nalgene’s wide assortment of products and materials. The result – individuals can choose the product that is right for them.
“Today, everyone from hikers and outdoor enthusiasts to commuters and kids on the go are using Nalgene products to reduce the use of disposable bottles and containers,” said Silverman. “Based on all available scientific evidence, we continue to believe that Nalgene products containing BPA are safe for their intended use. However, our customers indicated they preferred BPA-free alternatives and we acted in response to those concerns.”

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A Natural High? Red Bull Cola...

So...have you heard the news? Red Bull plans to enter the cola market and take on the likes of cola power brands Pepsi and Coke. Using the tag line "Strong and Natural" the beverage will be all natural (100%) using actual coca leaf and kola nut. (Does that make it more of a "Coca Kola" than Coke itself?) The product's US launch is slated for June and it will command premium prices.

Looking at this product introduction from a marketing/branding perspective, I'm not sure if branding the drink as Red Bull is the best idea. Why? First of all, when you think of Red Bull the energy drink, natural doesn't seem to be a prime connection (for example, a major ingredient in it, taurine, is synthetic). Also, being branded Red Bull, most people will expect the drink to be a super-powered, energy cola. Since the cola isn't out there yet, I'm not sure how much of an emphasis will be placed on the trademark "giving you wings" factor. Having a large focus on natural makes me think Red Bull should have branded this under it's Carpe Diem brand (the name of its botanic water). I guess time will tell whether or not this was the right branding strategy -or- right tag line for this new cola.