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Environmentalists cheer as Nestle sells Canadian water business

Environmentalists cheer as Nestle sells Canadian water business
Business
After years of criticism from environmental groups, Swiss-based consumer products giant Nestle is selling its Canadian bottled water business.

The company announced Thursday it’s selling its Nestle Pure Life business in Canada to Shelburne-based Ice River Springs. Financial terms of the deal weren’t revealed.

“In late 2019, we began the exploration of a potential sale of our Nestle Pure Life business in Canada, as we had determined that we are best positioned to focus on our iconic international brands of San Pellegrino, Perrier and Acqua Panna,” said Nestle Canada president Jeff Hamilton in a news release.

The deal includes bottling plants in Puslinch, Ont., Hope, B.C., and a well in Erin, Ont. It also includes a controversial well in Elora, Ont., which isn’t yet in use. Nestle Pure Life water will continue to be sold in Canada, though it will be produced by Ice River.

In an email, Nestle Canada denied that the move was a result of public pressure.

“The decision was a business decision based on growth ambitions and prioritization on where we are best positioned for success,” the company said in the email.

While Nestle’s news release noted that Ice River is Canadian and family-owned, Case said that it’s still one of the largest private-label water bottlers in North America.

“I’d really like to see this industry stopped altogether. There’s no reason for it, especially in Ontario,” Case added.

Ice River co-owner Sandy Gott declined to comment but, in the news release, said the company produces “sustainable” bottled water.

“We will continue our commitment to sustainable bottled water, the circular economy and to hydrating Canadians,” Gott said.

Ice River also operates a recycling division — BMP Recycling — that takes municipal blue box waste and turns it into food-grade plastic, including 100 per cent recycled bottles.

On June 11, Nestle announced it was reshaping its global water business.

“The company will sharpen its focus on its iconic international brands, its leading premium mineral water brands, and invest in differentiated healthy hydration, such as functional water products,” the company said at the time.

In November, the Ontario government extended a moratorium on issuing new water bottling licences in the province. The moratorium, first introduced by the Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne in 2017, is set to expire on Oct. 1.

The moratorium came after Nestle purchased the Middlebrook, which the Township of Wellington Centre had intended to use for its municipal water supply.
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