A recent Financial Times blog describes the competition among beverage makers to capture the mineral water market in India. With a growing middle class, companies have seen greater demand for high quality water and filtration systems. In catering to that demand, companies such as PepsiCo India are “investing in capacity enhancement, packaging initiatives and below-the-line activities” to increase volumes. With such an increase in capacity and the expansion of manufacturing facilities for water production and packing across companies, lower-income populations could potentially see new products through which they can access better water.

As Indians get wealthier they don’t just want better quality meat, fish and vegetables. They also want cleaner water – and this is spurring growth in sales of mineral water as well as fierce competition for a share of the market.

Both domestic and international players are slugging it out, with Indians currently spending about $330m a year on bottled water, analysts estimate. The packaged water market constitutes 15 per cent of the overall packaged beverage industry, which has annual sales of at least $2.6bn, Deepak Jolly, a spokesperson for Coca-Cola India said.

The market leader is Bisleri International, which boasts a 40 per cent share. It is followed by Coca-Coca’s Kinley (around 25 per cent) and PepsiCo’s Aquafina (around 10 per cent).

But just as rising demand for bottled water is another sign of India’s expanding middle-class, it’s also a reminder of the country’s stark inequality given the millions of poor Indians who struggle every day to access any form of clean water.

A scare some years about pesticide contamination briefly stalled the growth of the bottled water industry, but it’s bounced back strongly. Analysts say sales are growing by at least 20 per cent a year and new names are constantly appearing on the shelves. You can now opt for a sip of Dew Drops, a glass of Just Born Spring Drops, or take a swig from a bottle of Hello.

India’s rich are also increasingly keen on installing water purification systems in their homes, but while Tata launched the world’s cheapest purifier for the low- to mid-income market in 2009, it is a relatively new entrant in the packaged water market.

Tata’s Mount Everest is still just bit part players in the market. But Tata’s grand ambitions have led it into a three-year dispute with Bisleri, the market leader.

Keen to secure a reputation for purity and freshness, Tata tried to claim exclusive rights to the word ‘Himalaya’ for their brand of bottled water – Himalayan Water – and dragged Bisleri to the Delhi High Court in 2008 for using the words ‘from the Himalayas’ on bottles of its packaged natural mineral water.

Unsurprisingly, Tata failed. India’s Intellectual Property Appellate Board, which deals with trademark-related issues, said in a recent order that Tata’s Mount Everest Mineral Water division could not trademark the term for its products. Now all water companies are able to use terms such as ‘Himalaya’ and ‘Himalayan’ for water, provided of course it is sourced from the mountains.

As Tata strategises about how best to gain a bigger share of the packaged water market, it may need to look further than just brand names. PepsiCo India is drawing up a fresh game plan which includes, investment in capacity enhancement, packaging initiatives and below-the-line activities to pump up volumes. Others at the top are extending their manufacturing facilities too.

This post has been corrected  – we previously said that Kingfisher was a Tata brand. It is, of course, a United Breweries brand. We also said that the annual packaged beverage market was worth Rs2.6bn, whereas it is actually $2.6bn – according to Coca Cola India .