SAN FRANCISCO, CA: California’s latest health fad, ‘raw water’, is experiencing price increases following the publication of a New York Times article that has propelled the trend into prominence.

Raw water, “unfiltered, untreated, unsterilized” spring water, was the focus of an NYT tech article last month. The piece, which countenances the pseudo-scientific and conspiracy theory beliefs of some of the producers interviewed (“[fluoride] is a mind-control drug with no benefit to our dental health.”), seems to have provided the product with seriously effective PR exposure.

In a Business Insider article from last week, the news service reported that one co-op store, Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco’s Mission District, was retailing 2.5 gallons of the product at $38.49, having previously sold the same quantity for $36.99. They had sold out.

This was due to price increases sparked by high demand for Live Water – one of the start-ups harvesting and delivering the water – specifically its “Fountain of Truth” variety. It appears that the strength of the trend, along with endorsements from Silicon Valley executives, is capable of significantly numbing price sensitivity.

The company, which spoke to the NYT for the raw water article, is also demonstrating the incredible power of fashionable packaging. In Rainbow Grocery, the decorative jug that Live Water displays  prominently on its website retails for $60.99.

On its website, Live Water says, “The earth constantly offers the purest substance on the planet as spring water. We celebrate this ancient life source that humanity flourished from, since the beginning of our existence. We trust it's perfect just the way it is.”

Experts, however, warn against the company’s new-age spiel. Dr Donald Hensrud, speaking to the NYT, said that untreated water supposes “acute and then chronic risks,” including E. coli, viruses, and parasites, problems absent from the US largely because of water treatment.

The trend is not entirely new, however. Producers in Maine, who trademarked the phrase back in 2012, have criticised the “entrepreneurial omnivores” that have spotted and tried to capitalise on the trend in a way that diminished their brand.

Research from Pew in 2016 showed that personal food philosophies and ideologies are a powerful driver of people’s choices about food. Similarly, Euromonitor has observed a continued growth trend in free-from products to the estimated tune of 5.5% CAGR.

Sourced from New York Times, Business Insider, Live Water, The Guardian, Pew Research, Euromonitor; additional content by WARC staff