France’s bottled waters do battle for place at top table

One brand has been given a helping hand by President François Hollande

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The Independent Online

It’s water pistols at dawn for France’s designer water industry. Business is booming for luxury bottled mineral water and the competition is fierce for a place on the nation’s – and the world’s – best restaurant tables.

One brand has been given a helping hand by none other than President François Hollande, who has ensured that bottles of Treignac mineral water from his Corrèze constituency are now available at his Cabinet meetings.

The director of Eaux de Treignac, Michelle Sainte-Laudy, told L’Expansion magazine: “François Hollande came to meet us several times before the presidential election. He even said that he drank our water when he was on his diet.”

Roger Padois, who bought Les Abatilles water company from Nestlé in 2008, said: “There is competition in this sector like in everything else.”

The spring water of Sainte-Anne des Abatilles was previously known for its medical benefits, which were officially recognised in 1925 and the town became a destination for thermal tourism.

“We looked at the marketing and the packaging and decided to design a bottle that would reflect the fame of the Bordeaux grand cru wines for which this region is known,” Mr Padois said. So “grand cru” bottled water was born.

A special Christmas Abatilles bottle, by the Italian designer Paola Navone, is now selling in supermarkets across France. A half-litre bottle costs about €5 (£4), comparable with Perrier, but Abatilles also supplies the high end of the hotel, café and restaurant market, where the price will be closer to €12.

But even French water aficionados have their limits, it seems. The best known Paris water bar, Colette, has dropped from its menu one of the most expensive bottled waters in the world: Bling H2O, which costs €50 for just 370ml.

Each bottle of Bling H2O – which comes from a spring in Tennessee  – is hand-crafted and encrusted with Swarovski crystals. The bottle is, of course, reusable.