• Bottled water sales are skyrocketing, but backlash against the beverage is also brewing.
  • The CEO of Nestlé Waters North America, Fernando Mercé, acknowledged the “challenges” created by negative perceptions of the bottled-water industry at a conference on Friday.
  • Mercé says that Nestlé plans to double down on dealing with plastic packaging and water sourcing responsibly.
  • Nestlé aims to have 50% of its bottles made from recycled plastic by 2025, as well as address criticism against the company’s water-sourcing practices.

As sales of bottled water have grown, a backlash has also been building.

In 2017, the carbonated-soft-drink category declined 1.3% by volume, while bottled water grew 6.2%, according to industry publication Beverage Digest. But, that doesn’t mean the bottled-water industry is free from criticism.

Activists have pushed to ban bottled water due to concerns over plastic bottles’ wastefulness and pollution. Companies have been criticized for paying minimal fees to communities where they source water. And, some people have said the entire concept is a “scam” perpetuated by companies situating bottled water as a preferable choice to soda, instead of as an environmentally inferior option to tap water.

Read more: Bottled water is the new smoking — and the industry is starting to face a backlash

As it is the maker of the largest bottled-water brand in the world, Nestlé Pure Life, Nestlé is feeling the backlash — and taking action.

“The challenges, I think they are real,” Fernando Mercé, the president and CEO of Nestlé Waters North America, said of the backlash against bottled water during Beverage Digest’s Future Smarts conference on Friday.

“I think you have to first, make sure that as an organization, you behave in a responsible way — that you are treating both the sourcing of water and the packing in the most responsible way you can,” Mercé continued.

A game plan…