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Faculty Mentor

Cassandra Hemphill


bottled water, tap water, taste, consumer preferences, education, environment

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Bottled water is consumed worldwide as both a matter of necessity and preference. People who need bottled water live in areas with compromised water sanitation, such as developing countries. People who prefer bottled water despite its higher price tag tend to live in areas that already have ready access to clean water, such as developing countries. These preferences for bottled water stem partly from taste and convenience, but are largely driven by advertising efforts by bottled water companies. The preference for bottled water leads to increased sales as well as increased cost. Costs include damages to health and the environment. Since these effects are not taken into account by bottled water companies and must be borne by others, they are considered external costs. Lack of information outside of biased advertising influences consumers to act differently than if they had full knowledge of the indirect consequences from their purchases. Educational efforts can balance out the information asymmetry between bottled water companies and consumers. This can take the form of a blind taste test, which demonstrates how little taste actually influences water decisions. A practice taste test corroborated studies which state that consumers cannot accurately identify water based on taste. Framing this activity in the context of the personal cost of bottled and tap compared to their similar benefit will help shift consumer perspectives and behaviors, especially in children, before preferences are formed.

Honors College Research Project


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Economics Commons



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