SARATOGA SPRINGS – Known for its distinctive cobalt blue glass bottles, Saratoga Spring Water has been a Spa City stalwart since the 19th century. But does the water really come from a spring in Saratoga Springs?
Not necessarily. Government-mandated labels on some of the bottles indicate that the water actually comes from the White Cedar Springs in Dallas Plantation, Maine (remote, rural communities in northern Maine are designated as plantations). That’s true for the water sold in the traditional blue bottles as well as the new special edition clear glass bottles touting the business’ 150th year.
The labeling on one of the company’s clear plastic water bottles examined by the Times Union stated the water was from Forestport, Oneida County. And other glass bottles found at stores in the Capital Region indicated the water was sourced from Saratoga Springs and Stockbridge, Vt.
Dallas Plantation is about 300 miles from Saratoga Springs, while Forestport and Stockbridge are about 100 miles away.
While there is some geographic dissonance between the name and the water’s origin, this is nothing unusual in the somewhat murky world of bottled water, in which international corporations own multiple players and branding tied to a particular place is a key marketing tool.
When Saratoga water was first bottled in 1872, food and beverage production was a local affair. There were no interstate highways, tanker trucks or refrigerated transport. The local production stuck for decades and many Saratoga denizens still know that the water had long come from Sweetwater Spring on the bottling company’s grounds near the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
Now that’s not always the case.
“I checked all three cases and said ‘That’s really weird,’ ” Bernie Collins, a former Saratoga resident who now lives in Pennsylvania, said when he noticed the label. Collins, who had family roots in the Spa City, buys Saratoga water from a distributor in Pittsburgh since he is used to it and enjoys drinking his hometown water.
He said he made some inquiries and learned that the water he has came from Maine, not Saratoga Springs.
A call to the company wasn’t returned.
The firm changed hands last fall when longtime owner Adam Madkour sold Saratoga Spring Water for an undisclosed sum to Blue Triton.
Blue Triton in the last year was spun off from the Nestle food conglomerate and is owned by a pair of investment firms: One Rock Capital Partners and Metropoulos & Co.
Blue Triton also owns Poland Spring, a Maine-based water company that has been nationally known for years. Its water comes not from Poland Spring, Maine, but from the Dallas Plantation as well.
Forestport is the home of Nirvana Natural Spring Water and one of the owners, Wade Abraham, said the business supplies other labels as well. But he declined to say which bottled water companies the spring supplies.
Abraham, who with a partner, purchased the operation out of bankruptcy court in 2016, said the bottled water business has seen its ups and downs over the past few years.
At the start of the COVID 19 pandemic, sales in general were “through the roof,” but things slowed as more and more restaurants and other public venues closed, Abraham said.
Business picked up in 2021 but now the industry is dealing with the same kind of supply chain challenges that all businesses face, including rising fuel costs.
The restaurant business plays a large role in Saratoga Spring Water sales, former owner Adam Madkour said back in September when the sale to Blue Triton was announced.
He said the unique glass bottles were a draw as was the cachet associated with the name Saratoga.
Regardless of a brand’s prestige, using water from a place that is different from the brand’s name has its potential downsides.
A group of consumers in 2019 commenced a lawsuit against Poland Spring/Nestle, claiming that they didn’t realize the water can come from drilled wells in addition to naturally occurring springs.
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