Youngsters Prefer Their Water Neat

By Bonnie S. Benwick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Used to be, the most fun a kid could have drinking water on a hot summer's day involved a squirt gun.

Now there's Aquapod, a squat plastic rocket that holds 11 ounces of "natural spring water" bottled by Nestlé Waters North America.

Since the product was launched nationwide in June, the company has heard that moms are labeling Aquapods with their children's names and tossing them into the neighborhood pool, to be grabbed by their thirsty broods. The disposables float, even when full. "That's not something we even intended," according to Nestlé marketing representative Nicole O'Connor.

Apparently fun is what has been missing from children's daily water intake. O'Connor says research showed that kids in the 6-to-12-year-old bracket found bottled water "boring." So the company went with distinctive repackaging rather than flavors or licensed characters on labels. With parents looking to cut back on their families' sugary and caffeinated drinks, and with school lunchbox demands just around the corner, the Greenwich, Conn.-based company found a quick hit on its hands.

"Kids got right away that this was a product just for them," O'Connor says. "It's a case of the same product given a different shape that has changed people's perceptions."

About plain, unflavored water .

Aquapods are packaged through Nestlé regional brands: Deer Park, Poland Spring, Zephyrhills, Calistoga, Arrowhead and Ozarka. In the Washington area, Aquapods are sold in eight-packs at Wal-Mart, Target and some Safeway stores.

Other bottled-water purveyors have steered their compact bottles toward lunchboxes as well. Fiji Water's new Lil'Fijis are being sold exclusively at Target, launched with a celebrity chef campaign to promote healthy eating for kids. Spring! by Dannon's small-bottle product line (Coca-Cola Co.) includes Fluoride to Go and safety twist cap options, and Coca-Cola's P.A.C.K. program, with lunchbox menu suggestions and tips, touts its "kid-sized packages with cool graphics." Nestlé has introduced an eight-ounce bottle of fluoridated water with a similar safety twist cap aimed at ages 2 to 6, which has propelled the company to No. 1 in sales in the fluoridated category.

Whatever ways the industry finds to serve us H20 -- and there have been some annoying ones of late, including sport bottles that don't fit in vehicle cup holders -- its companies can look forward to fun by the barrelful. The Beverage Marketing Corp. predicts that single-serve bottled water will be the best-selling beverage by 2012, overtaking sales of soda.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company