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Consumer organisation puts bottled mineral waters in Spain under the microscope: these are the best... and the cheapest
Food and drink

Consumer organisation puts bottled mineral waters in Spain under the microscope: these are the best... and the cheapest

According to a survey, 41% of the population in the country never drink tap water

Raquel Merino

Thursday, 30 May 2024, 10:29

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According to a survey carried out by Spain's Organisation of Consumers and Users (OCU), 41% of the population in the country never drink tap water. There are also those who do, but are also in the habit of drinking some mineral water. In general, 30% never buy bottled water, while 70% do, and those are mainly in the coastal regions.

The OCU asked consumers what they look for when buying bottled water and most base their choice on price rather than brand or source. However, although water is water, not all water is the same in terms of composition or cost. For this reason, the OCU carried out a comparative study in which it put 91 bottled waters under the microscope. They assessed bottled waters (22 sparkling and 69 still) from different, big brand stores (Alcampo, Carrefour, Día, El Corte Inglés and Mercadona) in nine Spanish cities, namely Malaga, Barcelona, Bilbao, Madrid, Seville, Toledo, Valencia, Valladolid and Zaragoza.

In general, sparkling waters are more expensive, costing 67% more on average. The best options for the bank balance are the supermarket, own-brand, still mineral waters, which in general are 52% cheaper than the big brand names, costing on average 0.42 euros compared to 0.87 euros per litre.

However, there are some very cheap bottled waters, such as Fontecabras (La Majuela), which costs 0.13 euros/litre. Also, if we look at mineral water coming from a natural source, then the spring water from La Majuela in Zaragoza is the cheapest at 0.17 euros/litre when compared to the same type of naturally sourced water from San Millán (La Rioja) at 2.75 euros/litre.

Malaga and Seville are the provinces included in the analysis where it costs the least to buy bottled water in contrast to Madrid and Valencia.

So, where do the mineral waters sold in the nine cities examined come from? The OCU study reveals that spring waters from the local region itself or from neighbouring areas predominate. Yet some waters do come from distant springs, as is the case of bottled waters from Galicia being sold further away in Valencia, Malaga and Seville.

In the supermarkets visited by the consumer organisation, mineral waters from other countries can also be found, although they are more expensive still, about 2.84 euros/litre on average, almost four times more than home-sourced, in-country waters.

Did you know that, once opened, bottled water should be consumed within two to three days?

Although the OCU considers that tap water consumption should take priority whenever possible, it offers some recommendations for sustainability and saving money when buying mineral water.

In addition to the fact that supermarket own brands are the cheapest and that it is more economical to opt for bottles of 1.5 litres or more, OCU advises opting for water that comes from springs in the region where it is purchased or from a neighbouring area.

OCU also pointed out that it is necessary to pay attention to the condition of the packaging and the place of purchase, as the bottles must be stored in suitable hygienic conditions. The list goes on: stored in a clean place without excess humidity or strong odours, protected from sunlight and high temperatures and never placed directly on the floor. In addition, the labels must be well placed, no breaks or damage to the container, the seal unbroken, and don't forget to check the best-before date.

Once at home, the same storage conditions should be met. The bottles should be kept in a cool, dry, odour-free environment and protected from sunlight. Once opened, they should be consumed within two or three days at the most and should be deposited in the nearest plastic recycling container.

When ordering mineral water when eating out, the bottle should always be opened in the presence of the customer and open bottles should never be accepted. As for the presence of ice in the glasses, the OCU warns that they are usually made with tap water and, if it is an area with poor water quality, such ice can contaminate the mineral water.

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