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Delta launches product to quench thirst for purer water: Procter & Gamble partnership flows with potential

July 4, 2005

Locally based Delta Faucet Co. has launched a water filtration system it hopes will capitalize on the craze for bottled water.

Americans last year drank more bottled water than coffee or milk for the first time. Only soft drinks stand above bottled water as America's favorite beverage, according to Beverage Marketing Corp., a New York-based research and consulting firm.

The Simply Pur Water Filtration System was born of a joint venture between Delta and Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble's Pur Water Filtration Products division. The plan is to chip into the bottled water market by quenching consumers' thirst with filtered tap water.

The launch comes after Delta twice started, then stopped, development of its own filtration system. It was not convinced its own invention could be a category heavyweight.

With Pur as a partner, industry sources said, the new launch should pack a punch. Pur and Oakland, Calif.-based Brita Products Co. are the two largest makers of filtration systems.

Delta and P&G officials declined to disclose financial terms of their deal, but said they shared research and development costs and are working together on a marketing and distribution plan. June marked the wholesale rollout of the product through builders, contractors and plumbers. A retail rollout is expected within 60 days.

"If Delta is getting into this market, that tells you something," said Jim Olsztynski, editorial director for Plumbing & Mechanical magazine, an Illinois-based national industry trade publication. "Delta is a company known for studying the market and making moves that make sense."

Industry figures show Brita has 33 percent of the water filtration market while Pur has 31 percent. Sources said Pur's alliance with Delta may push it over the top.

"This is the first joint venture like this in the market, and we think it puts both companies in a very strong market position," said Clark Reinhard, Procter & Gamble associate marketing director. "Delta is known for stylish, quality faucets, and we're known for state-of-the-art filtration systems."

Bottled water began to gain a market foothold in the 1980s, before going mainstream in the 1990s. U.S. sales of bottled water have grown from 2.7 billion gallons in 1993 to nearly 7 billion gallons in 2004.

Officials for Delta, a subsidiary of Michigan-based Masco Corp., think their new Simply Pur system could take a bite out of the $9.1 billion U.S. bottled water market. There are no industry figures for annual sales of filtration systems, but sources estimate it in the low hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

"This is a big move for Delta because it takes us into a new and growing category," said Danette Goen, Delta's product manager for the Simply Pur line.

Bottled water industry sources are downplaying competition between filtration systems and bottled water. Delta has no qualms as indicated by a press release announcing the launch of its new product that states, "Who says bottled water has to come from a bottle?"

Filtration devices began to hit the market en masse in the 1990s as manufacturers looked to capitalize on Americans' desire for cleaner water and a healthier alternative to soft drinks and other sugarand caffeine-laden beverages.

Brita and Pur entered the market mainly with devices that attach to kitchen faucets. Faucet manufacturers including Ohio-based Moen Inc. also joined the niche in the last decade. Delta is late to the party, Olsztynski said, and will have to market aggressively to capitalize.

Delta's Goen said several important distinctions distinguish Delta's Pur system from the competition.

The Simply Pur system is designed to match a number of Delta faucets and almost any kitchen décor, Goen said. Delta's unit includes a second faucet separate from the regular faucet which can still be used to wash hands and dishes without going through the filtration system. And Pur filters can be purchased almost anywhere, including Target, Sears, Meijer and other grocery and department stores.

The Simply Pur system retails from $158 to $283, with replacement filters, which last about three months, costing less than $20.

"It doesn't look like something you'd see in a dentist's office," Goen said. "With the kitchen becoming more of an entertainment center in the home these days, that's very important."

The filtration system featuring Pur's three-stage filtration is below the sink. Stage one filters sediment such as rust and dirt. Stage two reduces 32 potentially harmful contaminates, Pur officials said. Stage three filters water over a natural bed of minerals for better taste.
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