Tide turns against sparkling water brands

Fizz: Jai Pyne and Eric Hoenig at Fleetwood Macchiato. Photo: Ben Rushton
Fizz: Jai Pyne and Eric Hoenig at Fleetwood Macchiato. Photo: Ben Rushton

The exotic origins and unique blends of minerals have long been touted on the labels of bottled sparkling water, strengthening its premium status.

But a growing number of Sydney cafe and restaurant owners have launched a revolt against commercial sparkling water, spurred by the desire to reduce bottle and packaging waste and their carbon footprint.

Tara Byrne, co-owner of Fleetwood Macchiato in Erskineville, installed an old-fashioned Sodastream machine when her cafe opened mid-last year to serve a stream of home-made sparkling water and flavoured sodas.

''Making our own drinks dramatically reduces our recyclable waste,'' said Ms Byrne, who now uses a newer model. ''We don't need to have an extra drinks fridge in the cafe, so that saves on our electricity and is better for the environment.''

A refillable cup costs customers $2. Ms Byrne uses tap water and admits her offering could not match the quality of San Pellegrino, which uses naturally carbonated water from springs in northern Italy.

''But I don't think people think too much about it as long as it has the desired effect,'' she said.

At Runcible Spoon in Camperdown this month, co-owner Alex Watts set up a similar machine after he winced at the thought of the distance branded water travelled.

''The bottles have to be shipped here and there and then the water has to be bottled and finally it gets to us from overseas. It's such a waste of energy,'' he said.

The water system also gives him the freedom to be creative with soda flavours. ''I can make syrups based on what's [in] season and local, like figs or quinces to flavour the sparkling water,'' he said.

At Excelsior Jones in Ashfield, co-owner Anthony Svilicich bought a filtration system from Clever Water in Melbourne two months ago that allows him to change levels of carbonation. But he admits not everyone is a fan.

''Sparkling water depends on personal taste like coffee and some people like it, others don't,'' he said.

Despite the tide of rebellion, importers of premium bottled sparkling water do not see it as a threat to their success. The importer of Perrier says his product uses water and natural gas tapped from the Bouillens spring in southern France.

''The sparkling mineral water category is experiencing substantial retail growth, 13.4 per cent moving annual sales total, which is actually outperforming any other beverage category,'' said Garry Browne, chief executive of Stuart Alexander, importer of Perrier.

Eric Hoenig, 30, of Erskineville, said sparkling made up three-quarters of his entire water intake. He sips Fleetwood Macchiato's $2 sparkling four times a week with coffee to cleanse his palate.

''Because they use tap water, the sparkling is lighter and more palatable,'' he said. ''It's not the same as what you get from European mountains but it does the job.''

Sixpenny in Stanmore, Marque in Surry Hills and Kitchen By Mike in Rosebery also serve their own.

This story Tide turns against sparkling water brands first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.