Perrier is a bottled mineral water.
The water comes from a plain in Vergèze a small village in the south of France, 4 miles (7 kilometres) south-west of Nimes. The plain is surrounded by limestone rock hills.
The water from precipitation percolates through the rock, down into a 130 foot (40 metre) deep aquifer under the plain, about 16 feet (5 metres) underground. Below the aquifer is carbonaceous rock which, through the natural heat of the earth, releases carbon dioxide gas that finds its way up into the aquifer pool and carbonates the water. The water continuously feeding into the aquifer forces the water up naturally in a spring. But, as the water reaches the surface, the carbon dioxide present in the water escapes from the water, leaving the water less carbonated again.
Consequently, bottlers have drilled and installed pipes directly into the carbon dioxide producing rocks to a depth of approximately 1500 feet (450 meters.) The carbon dioxide is extracted through the pipes, then combined under pressure with the water at time of bottling in the plant. The combination of the carbon dioxide and water happens at strictly controlled levels, giving an artificial consistency of production. The gas has to be filtered first, because it contains trace hydrocarbons (specifically, benzene), as well as hydrogen sulphide, argon, ethane, helium, methane, neon, nitrogen, propane, and toluene. Because the carbon dioxide is now being drawn off artificially, that means that there is less to rise naturally into the water in the aquifer.
1863 – Rights to exclusively exploit the Perrier spring were granted to the “Société de l’Etablissement Thermal des Eaux Minérale de Vergèze” by Napoleon III. Facilities were built for making bottled water and for bathing;
- 1869 – Fire destroyed everything; the company went bankrupt;
- 1888 – Rights were acquired by a Monsieur Rouvière and a doctor Doctor Louis Perrier;
- 1898 – Doctor Louis Perrier becomes the sole owner of the rights;
- 1903 – All holdings were bought out by Sir John Harmsworth from England. He named the spring after Louis Perrier;
- 1906 – He formed a company called “La Compagnie de la Source Perrier.” Harmsworth came up with the idea for the pear-shaped bottle;
- 1936 – The company becomes “La Source Perrier S.A.”;
- 1946 – The company is bought back by French owners;
- 1977 – Perrier launched in America;
- 1989 – Perrier owned 6% of the bottled water market in America;
- 1990 – Recall of Perrier in North America begins. 70 million bottles were recalled in North America. The water was contaminated with benzene. The contamination was discovered by state inspectors in North Carolina. Perrier attributed the contamination to benzene being used mistakenly in the bottling plant for North America to clean bottling machinery. The recall, however, became world wide, as benzene-contaminated bottles were found in the Netherlands and Denmark as well. Perrier officials then said that the benzene is naturally present in the water, is filtered out, and that the contamination was owing to filters that hadn’t been changed. During further investigations, the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspectors discovered that Perrier artificially carbonated its water (as described above). They made Perrier take the phrase “Naturally Sparkling” off the label in America.
- 1992 – Perrier is purchased by Nestlé.
- 1995 – The Perrier market share in America had fallen to 1/2 of that of 1989. In the same year, on 28 November 1995 in Toronto, Canada, the trial began in an appeal court of The Perrier Group of Canada Inc vs Her Majesty the Queen in right of Canada. Revenue Canada asserted that as an artificially carbonated water, Perrier fell under the category of a beverage, not a water, and therefore was subject to federal sales tax under section 50 of the Canadian Excise Tax Act. Completely natural water is excluded from the act specifically, but the artificial process of the additional carbonation in Perrier make it a processed drink, and therefore taxable. The judgement was originally made in November 1987, with Revenue Canada hitting Perrier with a tax bill for the sales tax it didn’t collect but should have, totalling $1,077,209.43 CDN. Perrier had appealed in 1990 and again in 1993. Expert witnesses on both sides went through the entire production process. It is owing to the Canadian taxman’s diligence that so many details of the production process came to light.