By: Jessica Dawn Ulrich
The FIJI Water Company began selling water in the United States in 1997 and has
seen rapid growth in sales in the U.S. as well as in Europe and the South Pacific (Connell
2006). Until the recent past, FIJI Water was consumed by only the elite and celebrities,
but now it is the number two imported brand in the U.S. behind France‘s Evian (Royte
2008). With plans to expand to lucrative new markets such as Japan and the Middle East,
FIJI Water shows few signs of slowing its growth. Production has grown by
approximately 60 percent every year from 2000 to 2008, and the company has increased
from its initial production line to three production lines running on a 24-hour schedule
The company has been able to capitalize on water from a unique source
at a time when global demand for bottled water is high. The company‘s marketers have
been able to capture exactly what some consumers are looking for in their FIJI bottled
water – ideals of pristine quality and distance from industrialization and pollutants. In
order to fully understand FIJI Water‘s relationship with the local communities and its
success in the global bottled water market, the company‘s history and development must
Development of the FIJI Water Company
Canadian hotelier David Gilmour founded the FIJI Water Company in 1996
(Connell 2006). Gilmour owns the exclusive Wakaya Resort in Fiji, which is frequented
by celebrities and the ultra-rich. Stories claim that Wakaya‘s guests had drinking water
flown in from thousands of miles away while vacationing there, partially out of fear of
the local drinking water supply on the remote tropic island and partially out of their
9 desire to consume luxury goods (Kaplan 2007). Gilmour came to the realization that
―‘I‘ve imported water from 10,000 miles away, probably from a highly polluted area, and
I bet within 100 miles there is the most unique source in history‘‖ (Connell 2006:343).
As an entrepreneur, Gilmour set out to find a nearby water source containing an
abundance of high-quality water in which to invest, and he found one. The subsequent
development of Gilmour‘s water company, known as Natural Waters of Viti Levu in Fiji
was assisted by both his past business and government connections from his resort
development in Fiji and the favorable business conditions provided in Fiji.
Initial and continued investments occur in a developing country when decisionmakers, such as Gilmour, are confident in a number of favorable conditions that can
facilitate the growth of their business and expand their profit-margins. Favorable
business conditions can include access to cheap and temporary labor, corporate-friendly
laws and policies such as tax breaks, tax-holidays and subsidies, and unregulated access
to abundant natural resources4 (Madeley 1999). In 1996, Gilmour found many of these
MNC friendly conditions in Fiji which assisted his developing FIJI Water.
Barlow, Maude and Tony Clarke. 2002. Blue Gold: The Fight to Stop the Corporate
Theft of the World’s Water. New York City, New York: The New Press.
Berg, Bruce L. 2007. Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Sciences. 6th ed.
Bourdieu, Peirre. 1984. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste.
Cambridge, Massachusetts; Harvard University Press.
Bradshaw, Y. W., and Wallace M. 1996. ―Constructing a Model of Global Inequalities.‖
Global Inequalities: 39-57. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.
Brown, Lee and Helen Ingram. 1987. Water and Poverty in the Southwest. The
University of Arizona Press.
Castro, Jose Esteban. 2008. ―Neoliberal Water and Sanitation Policies as a Failed
Development Strategy.‖ Progress in Development Studies 8:63-83.
Central Intelligence Agency. 2008. ―The World Factbook.‖ Retrieved November 19,
Connell, John. 2006. ―The Taste of Paradise: Selling Fiji and FIJI Water.‖ Asia Pacific
Viewpoint 47: 342-350.
Evans, Peter. 2008. ―Imperialism, Dependency, and Dependent Development.‖ The
Transnational Studies Reader, ed. Sanjeev Khagram and Peggy Levitt, 415-428.
New York: Routledge.
Fiji Islands Bureau of Statistics. 2007. ―2007 Census of Population.‖ Retrieved June 16,
Fiji Islands Bureau of Statistics. 2008. ―Fiji Facts and Figures as at 1st of July 2008.‖
Retrieved April 15th, 2009 (http://www.statsfiji.gov.fj/FFF08.pdf).
Fiji Sun. 2008. ―State Lifts Water Tax.‖ Fiji Sun Newspaper, July 24. Retrieved
December 1, 2008 (http://www.fijisun.com.fj/main_page/view.asp?id=3143).
Fiji Water Company. 2009. Retrieved April 1, 2009 (http://www.fijiwater.com,