Water Bottling Plants as a Viable Commodity in Southern Africa
The first commercially bottled water plant appeared in Southern Africa at the Cape Town Van Riebeeck plant during the early 1800’s. The water was taken from on
e of the strongest flowing natural springs at the foot of Table Mountain known as the Albion Spring. This spring was part of the municipality of Cape Town as was bought by South African Breweries.
This industry is fairly new in South Africa and has only been in existence for the past fifteen years as opposed to other countries, South Africa only hold a very small percentage. Studies have shown that South Africans drink very little mineral water in comparison to the rest of the world. There are on average between eighty to a hundred water bottling plants in South Africa of which produce around 280 million litres annually of which generates around a billion rand turnover annually.
In 1977 SANBWA was founded of which sets the national standards for the industry and ensure that the water production is pure, safe and tastes good. Studies have shown that there has been a 20 percent growth rate, as people are becoming more aware of polluted water and health conscious.
Bottling Plants Are Regulated in South Africa
The SANBWA law states that all bottled water come from underground spring that are not able to be polluted or contaminated. Many of these natural sources are located in remote and rural areas, where the environment is much cleaner than in the city’s and are tested for safety and purity. A water plant also needs to be kept spotlessly clean and safe, which in turn ensures sustainable maintenance of South African indigenous eco systems and environments.
Around 5 hectares of agricultural land is irrigated annually by the bottled water industry in South Africa of which 270 million litres can be broken down into 742 cubic meters daily. All depending on the crops that have been planted, one hectare of irrigated land needs around sixty to eighty cubic meters of water daily. The figures show that bottled water is cost effective as well as a viable use of water.
The Department of Health Monitors All Bottling
In addition, bottled water is defines as a food, unlike tap water and therefore is strictly regulated by the 2006 legislation, ensuring world class health and safety standards in South Africa. The Department of Health monitors the bottling of water under this new legislation. SANBWA procedural and infrastructural requirements are based on the same standards as the European standards.
An annual in depth documented tests are required by SANBWA with regards to the water source and the bottling facilities. SANBWA also takes bottled water from the shelves and tests the water content randomly. In addition water bottling plants are provided with strict guidelines which are aimed at proving the highest quality bottled water for consumers, for documented in house water testing and includes the safety of the employees.
All Bottled Water Labels Must by Law Divulge the Origin and Source
The association’s logo can also be utilized on the bottles, which also guarantees consumers that the bottled water meets the required health and quality standards. More than 80 percent o natural bottled water in South Africa is produced by the ten members of SANBWA. The top two bottling industries each produce around fifteen to twenty thousand litres of bottled water hourly.
There are also bottlers that only produce ten litres per hour as the water is bottled, packaged and labelled by hand, and the other bottlers produce around three thousand litres an hour. The large factories all have fully automated bottling systems and the smaller concerns have such systems, although the labelling and packaging is done manually.
Water Bottling Plants Have to Take Care
Due to bottled water containing no preservatives, it is one of the most difficult foods to package, as the hygiene standards are a critical factor. The profit margins for bottled water are around 11 percent for 500ml, and water bottling plants need to produce high volumes in order to make a substantial return on their investment.
Once they have everything up and running and they are producing the volumes required to turn a profit, these water bottling plants become a viable means for mineral water throughout the country.