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    Bottled Water Shows Signs of Slowing

    Nestle Waters exec cites this year's higher prices and cooler summer weather as factors.

    NEW YORK -- U.S. bottled water sales have shown signs of slowing, due to higher prices and cool summer weather across much of the country, Kim Jeffery, chief executive of Nestle Waters North America, recently told the International Business Times.

    "This is the first time in seven years that pricing is not going down," Jeffery said, citing such factors as the high cost of raw materials and the lack of a price "war" like the one last year between PepsiCo Inc.'s Aquafina, Coca-Cola Co.'s Dasani, and Nestle brands, including Poland Spring, Nestle Pure Life and Deer Park. "There was a lot of competitive fire in the industry last year that is really not there this year," he said.

    Sales of bottled water grew 11 percent in the first half of 2007 -- about half as fast as during the year-ago period, according to industry newsletter Beverage Digest, which counts "enhanced water" drinks, such as Coke's "vitaminwater" and Pepsi's SoBe Life Water as bottled waters, the International Business Times noted.

    Still, Nestle expects U.S. volume growth of its bottled-water brands to improve in the next few months as comparisons with last year become easier. "We start to go against some very easy comparisons in the last few months of the year," Jeffery said, noting that a lack of hurricanes last year failed to spur disaster-related demand for bottled water. "So, I expect that volume is going to pick up a little bit in the next couple of months."

    Looking further ahead, Nestle is gearing up to launch some new products. The company, which also makes Arrowhead, Ice Mountain and Ozarka, is working on new brand/line extensions. "You can expect us to be extending these brands in some fashion in the coming years," Jeffery told the Times. "Most likely in 2009."

    He declined to say exactly what the new drinks would be, but noted that the cutting edge in bottled water is "functionality," such as added vitamins or minerals.

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