Can Anything Be Artisanal?
Is artisanal water the ultimate in upscale marketing?
Web2Carz Senior Writer
Published: July 29th, 2012
ometimes, through overuse, a word begins to take on meanings that are far removed from what they were originally meant to convey. One obvious example is the word “literally.” Although the primary definition of literally remains, “Word for word” or “In a literal or strict sense,” it is so often misused as a substitute for “virtually” that even grammarians have had to begrudgingly accept that its meaning is in fact transforming. A similar thing can happen when a word is used as a marketing tool, and such is the case with the word “artisanal,” which is now being used to peddle—of all things—water.
Artisanal foods have become so popular that marketers have hijacked the word.
Artisanal, when applied to things like cheese, bread, chocolate, beer, jam, etc., refers to things made by a skilled craftsman. Artisanal foods are locally produced in small batches and are sold in gourmet shops. The word “artisanal” implies a degree of expertise and care that makes the product exceptional.
But artisanal foods have become so popular that marketers have hijacked the word. You can get Artisan Pizza at Dominos and Artisan Breakfast Sandwiches at Starbucks, but those companies are at least honest enough not to use the word artisanal.
And now a New York City cafe has taken the concept of artisanal to a ridiculous level, offering “artisanal” water—essentially tap water that has been specially filtered—and selling it for $2.50 a glass.
There’s certainly no question that the water sold at Molecule Water Cafe, the spot in the East Village that sells this high-priced agua, is well filtered. The cafe uses a $25,000 system that uses a seven-stage filtering process to ensure that its water is uber-pure. But buying a fancy piece of plumbing doesn’t make you an artisan any more than buying a $10,000 microwave oven makes you a gourmet.
So are the thirsty masses paying $2.50 a glass at Molecule getting water that is free from all known impurities? Yes they are. Are they the victims of a marketing trend gotten out of hand, paying good money for something that has no real value? Yes. Yes they are. And we mean that literally.