Lidl will stop selling Vittel mineral water in the future. The discounter is one of the French brand's main distribution partners in Germany.
The actual reason for the break is still unclear. A Vittel spokesperson told Manager Magazin that the contract, which runs until the end of this month, will not be renewed following "mutual consultation". However, she did not want to specify the reasons or context of the decision. At Lidl itself, nobody was willing to comment.
Nestlé, the owner of the French mineral water, has been criticised for years for its controversial water extraction in the small town of Vittel in the French Vosges. The food giant would have permission to pump up to one million cubic metres of water annually. However, local citizens and nature conservation associations point out that the groundwater level in Vittel is dropping by as much as 30 cm per year as a result.
The company does not deny the groundwater level is dropping. "We pump more water out than comes back in naturally, which means that the groundwater level has been dropping steadily every year for 30 years", Ronan Le Fanic, the head of the local Nestlé factory, recently told the German national broadcaster ZDF. "So, there's nothing new there." However, Nestlé is said to be pumping less water than allowed by law.
Nestlé has consistently defended its water production in Vittel, citing, among other things, the thousand people it employs in the French town. "However, we manage water very responsibly, both at the sources and our factories", said Chief Executive Mark Schneider in an interview with Manager Magazin last year. "As the largest food company in the world, you are inevitably a target; that will probably never be completely avoidable."