Shopping for water

shelf of water bottles

The law of supply, demand, and greed

Follow-ups: Alan in the UK.

My previous rant about the price of yogurt prompted friend Jim to write with a provocative rumor about water. Jim wrote:

Someone, I don't know who, pointed out that the Coca Cola company also sells a brand of bottled spring water. That spring water retails for more per ounce than the Coca Cola they also sell. Either Coca Cola is made with some inferior water, or they is just rippin' off us poor dumb consumers.

I'm thinking: Another good excuse to work up some righteous indignation! The Coca-Cola brand of bottled water is Dasani. It turns out that Coca-Cola also markets Evian, which is a brand of Groupe Danone, makers of Dannon yogurt that provoked my earlier rant.

I went comparison shopping at my local Ralphs. While there, I couldn't help noticing — because I was checking — that they are no longer selling the smaller Dannon yogurt for the same price as the old, larger container. They have raised the price!!!

Today's prices
Coke, classic 1 liter$1.29
Bottled waters
Arrowhead 1 liter$0.69
Aquafina 1 liter$1.09
Dasani 1 liter$1.29
Evian 1 liter$1.99
Morning beverage
Minutemaid OJ 64 fl oz$3.59
Adult beverages
Corona 24 fl oz$2.69
Smirnoff Ice 24 fl oz$3.29
Gordons Vodka 750 ml$10.49
Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay 750 ml$12.99
Bombay Sapphire Gin 750 ml$19.39

To reduce the possible effect of container size and packaging costs, I decided to make my Coke and water comparisons using the one liter container. I also used the standard shelf price, rather than special or "club card" prices.

Then, to make things interesting, I thought to check the prices of some other beverages. I chose Minutemaid orange juice (in a carton, from concentrate) and a range of adult beverages, from a beer up to Bombay Sapphire gin.

To ensure a fair comparison, I converted all the prices to cents per fluid ounce.

Results. Here's a chart of the price per fluid ounce of all the beverages..

chart of beverages prices

We see that Dasani bottled water (Coca-Cola's brand) and Classic Coke are the same price. Both are much more than the less-pretentious Arrowhead water (50% more), and much less than the decidedly up-scale Evian (35% less). Evian, I note, is more expensive than orange juice, although orange juice is nutritionally superior by far.

Moving on to the adult beverages, we start to see some really dramatic differences in price. It's sobering to consider that Bombay Sapphire, even at $20 per 750ml is far from the most expensive adult beverage.

On the way home, I stopped for gas at my local Chevron station where self-serve, unleaded gasoline was $1.939 per gallon. We in the US are fond of whining about gas prices (and yes, I do remember when gas was less than 25¢ per gallon). However, even $1.939 per gallon works out to only $0.015 per fluid ounce, less than even the cheapest water on my list.

I thought it would be interesting to see what gasoline would cost if it were priced like Coke, Evian, or ~shudder~ Bombay.

Price per gallon (US)
Chevron, unleaded$1.94
Chevron, priced like Coke$4.88
Chevron, priced like Evian$7.53
Chevron, priced like Bombay$97.87
The cost of filling up with Evian A fill-up with Evian would cost nearly $100— about as much as 4 bottles of Bombay!

Moral: Stop whining about the price of gasoline! Start whining about the price of Coke and bottled water!

Further evidence should not be needed that the price of things is independent of the costs of production.