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Achieving Balance.

Byline: Laura McCord

The bottled water category is one that continues to puzzle me.

In just under a decade, it has managed to achieve significant scale in terms of household penetration. Currently, it's at 70 percent, with an annual growth rate of 5 percent, and in terms of dollar sales, in 2011 the market reached more than $12.1 billion and is projected to continue to grow to reach a minimum of $17.2 billion in the next five years. You'd think there'd be no place to grow. After all, it's water.

Just when I thought there was nothing more that could be done to make this fairly mature category exciting, I discover enhanced water. Not just enhanced with flavor - that's been done and it boosted sales early in the decade. I'm talking about water enhanced with the proper alkaline minerals to improve a consumer's pH balance.

If our blood varies more than 0.1 pH from its normal level, illness quickly follows.

When it comes to pH ("potential hydrogen"), most people know more about why this matters in a pool or an aquarium than in their own bodies. Did you know that we're made up of more than 75 percent water? In fact, our blood is 83 percent water and has a specific pH of 7.365. If our blood varies more than 0.1 pH from that level, illness quickly follows. Our bodies work constantly to maintain that pH balance. The food we eat and the water we drink have pH levels, too. Carbonated cola has a pH of 2.0, a cup of coffee has a pH of 4.1/liter, and ground beef has a pH of 3.2.

If so much (some 90 percent) of the average American diet consists of acidic food and water, how do our bodies manage to dispose of all of this acid? Scarily enough, the body will find a way to get what it needs from itself. To neutralize all of the acidic products we ingest, our bodies will leach (remove) the alkaline minerals, also known as electrolytes, such as calcium and magnesium, from our bones. That leads to a whole other set of problems. There are a variety of supplements on the market to replace these minerals - or you could drink water that's been enhanced with these electrolytes.

You Are What You Drink

Not only will water enhanced with the proper alkaline minerals of calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium help the human body achieve and better maintain the proper pH, there's a plethora of additional benefits that come with its ingestion, including increased energy, improved cellular hydration, cardiovascular health, anti-aging properties, weight management, bone health and immunity support.

There's currently no one thing anyone can do to live a perfect, healthy life, and no one-size-fits-all solution to this equation. However, most doctors and health experts agree that the best place to start is by drinking alkaline water.

The reason for this is that alkaline water is:

Super-hydrating: If your body is fighting to maintain its proper pH and you drink acidic water, it will simply flush through the system, taking many alkaline minerals with it. With alkaline water, you're drinking a mineral-rich beverage that the body craves to stay hydrated. Ionized water doesn't sit in the stomach and slosh around, making you feel heavy and bloated; it's absorbed quickly, routed to the cells and pulled through the skin as perspiration - that's the hydration equation.

Full of antioxidants: Oxidation is aging, just like an iron nail oxidizes and rusts. Alkaline water is made by an electrolysis procedure that leaves the water negatively charged. A free radical is a positively charged hydrogen ion running amok in the body. With alkaline water, you'll feel younger, have more energy, won't get hung over as easily and sleep like a baby.

Great for pH balance: It's not easy for Americans to follow an alkaline diet, especially with our fast-paced lives. Even so, dietary preferences and personal taste still cause us to eat acidic food - who doesn't like a good tomato-based pasta sauce or a nice juicy steak now and again? Now, with alkaline water, it's easy to neutralize the acidity of our favorite foods just by drinking clean, delicious water.

With all of this talk about pH-balanced water, you're probably wondering what brands I'd recommend to help you help yourself and your customers maintain the proper pH balance that our bodies crave. On the opposite page is a list of brands that are all available in varying sizes through KeHE.

What is pH?

The abbreviation pH stands for "potential hydrogen," and is always spelled with a small "p" and a capital "H."

In scientific terms, what pH means is the ability of molecules to attract hydrogen ions. An acidic molecule would have a low ability to attract hydrogen ions, while an alkaline molecule would have a high ability to attract them. The pH of a solution is measured on a scale from zero to 14. On the pH scale, zero would stand for the highest possible acidity reading, 7 is neutral and 14 is the highest alkalinity reading.

Balancing Act

Almost all illnesses can be traced back to two simple problems:

Dehydration: water is the fluid of life. When we become dehydrated, we reduce our body's ability to process nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Further, we starve the body of the fluid by which it cleanses and detoxifies the organs and blood, leaving toxins running rampant in our bodies.

Over-acidification: our bodies prefer an alkaline environment. When acid builds up, it robs every available resource to maintain pH balance. Excess acid is stored in the body and slowly poisons us over time.

In an ideal environment, we all would have plenty of fresh air and physical activity, as well as a diet that consists of green, leafy vegetables; unrefined "whole foods"; and plenty of fresh, pure water to wash them down. Living like this would help keep us pH-balanced.

Laura McCord is Romeoville, Ill.-based KeHE Distributors' category manager of snacks and beverages. She can be reached at
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Author:McCord, Laura
Publication:Progressive Grocer
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2013
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