Nestlé is paring down its share of the bottled water industry, and that may have an impact on some 300 acres surrounding a freshwater spring near Newmanstown.
Forbes, which annually lists Nestlé S.A. among the world’s largest food and beverage companies, reported June 18 that the Switzerland-based conglomerate “is considering a sale of its low end mainstream water brands,” which include Nestlé Pure Life, Deer Park and Poland Spring.
Nestlé, which was formed by merger in 1905, also produces baby food, breakfast cereals, coffee and tea, ice cream, frozen food, pet food and, of course, chocolate. Upscale international brands such as Perrier, Acqua Panna, and S. Pellegrino will not be sold, according to Forbes.
But, according to the report, the company’s “mainstream water brands” are losing business, and Nestlé announced intentions last fall to reduce its focus on those “low-margin” brands. Now, they are apparently up for sale.
That means the fate of the local site — located on land off West Bethany Road in Millcreek Township — is uncertain.
Nestlé bought the property from the Ludwig family in 2007, according to previously published reports. According to the company website, Nestlé Waters North America — a subsidiary of Nestlé S.A., based in Connecticut — uses the site for its Deer Park and Ice Mountain spring water brands.
A Nestlé Waters spokesperson said in an email Wednesday, June 24, that company holdings in Pennsylvania are “included in the strategic review,” and said operations will continue during the review.
Regarding the Newmanstown site, the spokesperson said only that it includes springs and a load-out station, which is managed by “a team of hydrogeologists, geologists and other scientists who manage our Pennsylvania spring sites.” She did not say how many local workers might be affected if the site is sold or closed.
“In Pennsylvania, as elsewhere in the U.S., we are operating largely in a business as usual state for now,” she said in the email.
That also includes two bottling plants in the Lehigh Valley, according to a June 12 report by The Morning Call in Allentown. Those plants employ about 500 workers, the Call reported.
According to Nestlé’s website, the review is expected to be finished in early 2021.
The company also vowed “to make its entire global water portfolio carbon neutral and replenish associated watersheds by 2025,” according to a statement on June 11.
Nestlé Waters North America has faced its share of criticism and controversy in recent years.
Twenty years ago, at the World Water Forum in the Netherlands, Nestlé chairman and former CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe successfully argued that access to drinking water is a “need,” not a right. According to a 2013 report in The National, Nestlé and other corporations have used that leverage to begin “taking control of aquifers that local communities rely on for drinking water — and bottling it for a profit.”
Forbes also reported recently that Nestlé has been fighting an ongoing legal battle over accusations that the company’s claims that Poland Springs is actually purified groundwater, not pristine Maine spring water as advertised.
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