INGREDIENT FOCUS: Water
Antipodes artesian water offers the highest degree of purity, pristine mineral flavours and neutrality, which makes it an ideal companion for fine food and wine. The bottle design is clean and simple, reflecting the purity of the water. It comes from a 327m deep pressured aquifer, taking up to 300 years to naturally filter through a fine-grained volcanic rock. The precious source is located in the rural Bay of Plenty in New Zealand, which has a population density of less than one person per square kilometre.
Dolomia is the only water to have its source within a UNESCO Heritage site in the heart of the Eastern Dolomites. For a natural mineral water, it is the lowest in sodium content in the Middle East and naturally high in oxygen. Dolomia has recently celebrated its tenth anniversary and its luxurious packaging allows it to fit in at the most upscale of F&B establishments.
The new animal bottles from Lanjarón make hydration more fun for children. Bambu, Masai, Croco and Sabana are the names of its panda, lion, crocodile and giraffe bottles. Made with natural mineral water in PET bottles made from 25% recycled plastic and 100% recyclable. The panda is said to be a firm favourite among kids.
Whether it’s the #stopsucking campaign to get rid of straws that seems to gather pace with every month, or Avani Middle East’s #iamnotplastic initiative to encourage companies to look for environmentally friendly alternatives, there’s no question that sustainability is a key issue throughout the F&B arena.
But how many F&B related companies are taking the same proactive approach to ensuring they don’t waste water?
Water scarcity is a serious issue in many parts of the world, and, being essentially a desert with a hot, arid climate, the Middle East region needs to be particularly aware of its effects. That’s why taking steps to ensure the industry does not waste water is more than just a passing fad.
It’s something that Chef Middle East’s head of beverage division Giorgio Vallesi agrees on. He says: “Sustainability and green economy is a priority — not because of being a trend, but as the only viable option to preserve a home we all have misused for too long. The effort and ambition from the government, coupled with awareness and change in mindset, will naturally make all consumers switch to options that are greener and better for all the generations to come.
“Water won’t be any different, in the sense of influencing consumer behaviour, when choosing a product. Until now, the key has been provenance, nutrition value, brand image and price. Soon consumers will have tools to also establish the footprint of all the goods they buy or intend to — and this criteria will soon become one of the most prominent, to shape a new dimension of consumerism.”
Jason Moore, president of Lanjarón Arabia Distributors answers with an emphatic “Yes, yes, yes” when we ask him about whether there has been a rising demand for sustainable practices within his company.
“Many more water consumers are starting to ask for ‘green,’ which is great. Using the local tap water with a charcoal filter to save plastic is a good idea, because tap water is clean and safe as long as your pipes are well-maintained. However, since all local water is desalinated, it is also good to drink imported natural mineral water like Lanjarón. We are a greener solution because we offer 25% recycled BPA-free plastic, 20% plant based rPET, and 100% recyclable plastic. As the UAE grows its recycling foundation, we offer a ‘recycling-made-easy’ pickup and drop-off service.”
The number one concern for restaurants when it comes to ‘going green’ is that it will cost them money with no justifiable benefit — at the end of the day many concepts are struggling to stay afloat in an extremely challenging marketplace so naturally they can’t afford to take the moral high ground when it comes at a financial cost.
However, Chef Middle East’s Vallesi is confident that making the right choice ethically can also benefit a company’s bottom line, saying: “Embracing green economy and doing ‘business for good’ will surely be a competitive advantage, especially when targeting enlightened customers. Purchase gratification will more and more derive from doing the right thing and buying the brands that do good to us – and the environment.”
Several F&B establishments we spoke with confirmed that they are at least in the initial steps of improving their sustainability methods when it comes to water. Fairmont The Palm beverage manager Luis Urrea says that “all our hotel staff are given mentoring and training to minimise water wastages, controlling water pressure in every individual tap depending on the usage etc.”
It being such a vital component of all cooking, it’s impossible to eliminate water usage from the kitchen, but The Roost Rotisserie executive chef Zayn Haggerty says that they “try and quantify and measure the water content in The Roost’s dishes for sustainable reasons and to balance the flavours of our fresh products hence that water is suitable measured when used in recipes such as the in the bone infused rice and chicken broth”.
With consumers still choosing bottled water in large quantities however, how can restaurants justify the increased use of plastic as they try to decrease in other areas (such as straws)?
Lanjarón’s Moore says: “For those who do not like plastic, glass bottles are an alternative solution. But they are typically more expensive than PET (the plastic used for water bottles), and at a much heavier weight use more fuel to carry around.
“At two to three litres of recommended consumption per day, that can get certainly get very expensive.”
The fuel costs for each bottle can mean that the glass bottle you choose over a plastic one actually has a worse effect on the environment, and as Chef Middle East’s Vallesi explains, there’s more to it than meets the eye.
He says: “When it comes to water it’s about the carbon footprint deficit that each product carries – glass over PET, local water versus imported. While the choice may seem straightforward to some, many layers of variables are implicated. PET or plastic for certain consumer goods will stay and we just need to embed the habit to recycle and close the loop. Imported water has higher footprint on transportation, but much lower on production as nature does the job.”
There’s plenty to consider, but with the rising trend in favour of sustainability, we should begin to see the price of changing from damaging plastic goods to green alternatives begin to fall, which should lead to lower prices for consumers of bottled water in the long run.
There’s something in the water
The importance of water to life is absolutely fundamental. It sustains everything on the Earth, yet, until recently, many consumers paid little attention to what was actually in the water they are drinking. After all, water is water, right? Wrong.
Different types of water can be packed with different nutrients and the general public has finally realised it. It’s something Jason Moore, Lanjarón Arabia Distributors president has noticed.
“More and more, UAE consumers are starting to look on the label to understand their water,” he tells us. “Before, water consumers wanted to check sodium levels, now they are beginning to realise that a few mgs of sodium in water doesn’t compare to the 1,500mg recommended daily by the FDA.
“Instead, water consumers are looking for three words: ‘natural mineral water’ or ‘bottled drinking water’. The labels are regulated by ESMA and the Emirates Quality Mark (EQM).
“So the difference, simply put, is ‘natural mineral water’ is natural and ‘bottled drinking water’ is purified, often by reverse osmosis, and then minerals added back. You will find one set of these three words on every bottle of water sold in the UAE.”
The additional capabilities and extras that water can provide is something that has come to the attention of Chef Middle East’s head of beverage division Giorgio Vallesi also. He says: “When it comes to water trends, it is interesting to see how functionality is entering the water world — adding benefits beyond hydration. Some of these functionalities (vitamin D, oxygen or natural flavorings) are added to the water — or in the case of Dolomia, functional benefits are already there, packaged by nature!”
It’s clear that more and more consumers are aware of the benefits of drinking water, however, The Roost Rotisserie executive chef Zayn Haggerty thinks that many people still aren’t going far enough, saying: “We believe that people still underestimate the importance of water as part of their daily diet. Most drink to quench their thirst however water is essential for good health and we believe that people will tend to start ordering more water to consume with their meals rather than if they are only thirsty.”