Bottled water is among the popular products in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry in North America, and the size of the market grows by the year. It can be argued that most bottled water brands use an almost identical approach to business; that is, produce a bottle of water at the lowest cost and sell it at the highest possible margin.
However, Waiakea Hawaiian Volcanic Water launched into the market with a different approach. Rather than focusing exclusively on making as much profit as possible, the company Founder, Ryan Emmons, decided to run Waiakea on the triple bottom line principle. With this approach, the company aims to succeed in three broad areas: profits, people, and the planet.
Born in Santa Barbara, California, Emmons’ childhood was divided between California and Hawaii. He developed the idea of Waiakea in the course of his freshman year at the Marshall School of Business of the University of Southern California.
He formed the company with the help of Matt Meyer, his friend in College. Meyer however moved on to other endeavors but still serves as one of the company’s board of directors. They were fortunate to get a hold of the rare opportunity to get a 99-year lease on an artesian well in Hawaii. The well is only secured on a rent basis because the real owners of this precious resource are the people of Hawaii.
Waiakea Hawaiian volcanic water has experienced remarkable growth over the years. For this reason, it has more than one manufacturing facility to support the company’s global demand for premium bottled water.
It would be easy to come to the conclusion that Waiakea must be quite expensive considering it is a healthy, eco-friendly product that also supports philanthropic efforts. On the contrary, Waiakea Hawaiian Volcanic Water is available at more reasonable prices than other brands that offer premium bottled water.
How about the taste? Emmons describes the flavor as unique and the texture as leaving anyone who drinks the water with what he calls a “soft mouth feel”. Unusual as it may sound, there is no reason to doubt because numerous customers choose to drink Waiakea.
Over the years, Waiakea has managed to get good results in all these areas of the triple bottom line. In addition to growing its market share, Waiakea Hawaiian Volcanic Water has been providing health benefits to people and ensuring the protection of the environment by using eco-friendly packaging.
According to Emmons, part of the success of Waiakea Hawaiian Volcanic Water can be attributed to the company’s lifestyle branding model, which is quite similar to the model behind the success of the popular energy drink Redbull. The slogan used by Waiakea is “drink health, drink sustainably, drink ethically”.
When formulating its marketing strategy, it was important that Waiakea come up with something that customers could relate to on a visceral level and make them develop a strong sense of brand loyalty. What better way to create a powerful bond with customers than the noble desire to positively affect other people and the planet?
Penetrating the premium bottled water market and expanding its market share has not been an easy journey for Waiakea, Emmons notes. Before he founded Waiakea, there are other long-standing premium water brands in the market and they are certainly a formidable force. It took careful strategizing and plain hard work to persuade customers loyal to old premium water brands to make the switch to the new.
Waiakea is now among the top players in the premium water market in North America. The company started with just over 2,000 cases and by 2015, it has reached 122,400 cases. Among the reasons behind its steady rise in sales was the quick signing of local distributors and, later on, companies such as Whole Foods, which operated on a national level. The company was valued at $10 million in 2015.
The source of Waiakea Hawaiian volcanic water is rain and melted snow on the unadulterated snowcapped Mauna Lao volcano peak, surrounded by a vast 10 million square miles of ocean. It is, without doubt, one of the purest sources of water on the planet. The water flows down 14,000 feet of porous volcanic rocks and is enriched with minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and potassium. These promote healthy nails, bones, hair, and skin.
Hawaiian volcanic water is alkaline and rich in electrolytes, which are useful for maintaining a balance in body fluids. Research has found that water that is naturally alkaline can play an essential role in relieving symptoms of acid reflux. It can also be an effective remedy for osteoporosis.
Waiakea makes substantial annual profits and is in a good position to give back to the community. One of the initiatives of the company is donating 650 milliliters of clean water to deprived communities for every liter of Waiakea Hawaiian volcanic water that is bought. The donation is made through Pump Aid, Waiakea’s charity partner. As a result, deprived rural African communities have received hundreds of millions of liters to date.
Granted, the water that Waiakea donates has to be transported in top-quality, stainless steel tanks for 2,500 miles to get to the villages in Africa. However, the company maintains that the emissions of these vessels are canceled out by the company’s eco-friendly packaging process. Waiakea has partnered with a packaging facility in Long Beach, California, to ensure that the water is bottled in a way that is eco-friendly.
The manufacturing process of Waiakea bottles consumes 85 percent less energy because the bottled are manufactured entirely from recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) bottles. Additionally, since the source of Waiakea water is replenished in 30 days, the recharge rate is approximately 1.4 billion gallons a day.
Recently, Waiakea made plans to start using the world’s first plastic bottle that is fully degradable (you can read our article on the new bottle here). Initial production is set to start next year, and once it is in place, the company’s packaging lifespan will reduce by 98 percent. The technology has the potential of causing a significant shift in the global CPG industry. According to Emmons, scientists have now had to completely change their approach for packaging.
Emmons is excited about this new technology, and so should the entire CPG industry, because this new technology might be what people have been waiting for to quench their need for saving the planet.