A simple glass of water isn’t a simple affair any longer, thanks to the ambitious manufacturers of luxury bottled water across the world. They are packaging and selling waters from the virgin North Pole, sunken glaciers of Greenland, spring water from the Bhutanese kingdom, pristine waters of the Danish Lake Highlands and water with gold flakes to the increasingly health-conscious, discerning lot.
In India, the nascent market has seen a flurry of activities in the last few years. In 2018, luxury F&B brand Malaki launched Malaki 24K Gold Water, which is sold at ₹599 for 375ml. In 2017, IRIIS Food, an e-store that specialises in gourmet grocery introduced Blk., a bottle with nutrient-rich fulvic and humic minerals. This black-hue water is retailed at ₹220 for 500ml. If the industry players are to be believed, the premium water business is expected to grow at a CAGR of 20 per cent year on year.
Avid Indian travellers want the same high quality dining and water experience in India that they get when abroad. “There is a huge demand for waters with unique characteristics, be its mineral composition or its Total Dissolved Solids level or even the virginity of the water source,” says Ganesh Iyer, Director Operations, India & Indian Subcontinent, VEEN. He is reportedly the country’s first and only water sommelier.
“Consumers are demanding such water to even pair with gourmet food and liquor,” adds Iyer. VEEN was launched in 2008 in Lapland, Finland for the international market, while the company forayed in the Indian market in 2014. The company sources its water from the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan and has an array of products like Natural Mineral Water and Sparkling Mineral Water, retailed at ₹350 (660ml) and ₹450 (660ml) respectively.
Malaki has the Malaki Gold 24K Luxury Water and the Malaki Alkaline Water, which according to the company, are selling like hot cakes. “We wanted to bring to India a brand of water that brings luxury, health and sustainability to the table. Hence, we have the Malaki gold water, which has edible gold flakes in it,” says Ashish Bhatia, Director of Malaki. Then there’s alkaline water and that too has immense health benefits. These come in eco-friendly packaging, which is 80 per cent biodegradable. This form of plastic takes lesser time to decompose, as compared to regular plastic, which takes approximately 700 years.
The primary reason for the demand for bottled water such as these is the source of the water. Take for example Svalbarði, a European company that collects water from the purest icebergs in Kongsfjorden, 1,000 km from the North Pole. A 750ml bottle of Svalbarði is sold at €79.95 (approximately ₹6,425). The US-based Kona Deep harvests deep ocean water off the coast of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. This water is extremely cold, has practically never seen the light of the day and doesn’t have human contaminants; making it naturally pure.
Premium water in India
At home, a 500ml bottle of Evian natural mineral water is available at ₹203. This water is collected from the south shore of Lake Geneva, which filters through layers of glacial sand in the heart of the French Alps.
VEEN has invested in a bottling plant in Bhutan, where it sources the water supplied to India, from a natural spring. This water from the carbon negative country, contains calcium and magnesium that are vital for health, informs Iyer. Its 660ml Still Water is sold at ₹350 and 660ml Sparkling Mineral Water is sold at ₹450.
Adding some glitter to water is Malaki’s Gold 24k Luxury Water that costs ₹599 (375ml) and is extremely popular in India as well as amongst several royal families in the Middle East. “We have a plant in Surat where we process the water in imported Japanese minerals. We are one of the few companies that does not add minerals. Instead, we let the water pass through the minerals so that the water absorbs the minerals it requires,” says Bhatia.
This process makes the water lighter on the human system and more permeable. The water is charged with gold for two weeks and then bottled with pure edible 24-karat gold flakes. Their Malaki Alkaline Water offers added zinc and copper, and is known for its alkaline benefits with a Ph level of up to 9.5.
Though currently, the main consumer groups are the hospitality sector, the F&B segment and the duty-free zones at international airports; the number of individuals buying premium bottled water is slowly increasing. A few restaurants now even have exclusive water menu. “VEEN is currently dedicated to the hotel/restaurant/cafés segment and also crème de la crème home consumers on a pan India basis,” says Iyer. “Our water is supplied to a lot of hotels. The Malaki Gold 24K Luxury Water is famous for gifting purposes too and it is popular with the royal families of Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain,” informs Bhatia.
The stream ahead
Riding on the success, Iyer is thinking of launching a Retail Version of VEEN and may consider creating and selling Ayurveda water and related range in the third quarter of 2020. As of today, in terms of footprints, VEEN is available in close to 40 cities, and they intend to take this to 100 cities by the end of 2020, says Iyer.
Malaki is focussed on growing their consumer base in Pune, Bengaluru and Chennai in the second half of 2020. “We think that the consumers are extremely educated and are more health-conscious in these cities; and we think that people here are more willing to spend on health and fitness. So, I think it is a great space to be in,” says Bhatia.