Just a quick glance at the bottled water section of your supermarket will show you that there are numerous brands out there. There is spring water, filtered water, fresh water, and various other types of drinking water made available to the public. Everyone is battling for the space on the shelves and their part of the industry. If you own a bottled water business, how do you stand out from the crowd and make your presence known?
Ryan Emmons, owner of Waiakea Hawaiian Volcanic Water, has done just that. He has done so at an extremely young age as well. At only 27 years old, he is making his mark in the bottled water industry. Emmons recently received the honor of being recognized with a Leadership Award from the Specialty Food Association. The award recognizes the food industry’s frontrunners who create positive social, economic, and environmental impact through innovation and vision. The goal of each winner is to create a better world for everyone.
Emmons won his Specialty Food Association Leadership Award in the category of Citizenship. His business, Waiakea Water, has shown to improve the lives of the people and their communities by advancing environmental and social sustainability knowledge and practice. The culmination of this award is a far cry from when he started in 2011 after he got a drink out of his uncle’s well in Hawaii.
Emmons is a Santa Barbara native who loves to surf. “I was always fascinated by water,” said Emmons. When visiting his mother’s family in Hawaii, he came up with the idea of starting a bottled water company. He was amazed at the taste of the natural spring water, and he believed others would be, too. Emmons believed the taste of the water would sell itself, but he had to introduce it first to the general public. A lot of people have great ideas that can hit it big, but it is what you do with the ideas that matter. Being a young man fresh out of college, Emmons was about to enlist in a crash business course supplied by life. He was ready to turn this into a business.
Emmons started asking questions and figuring things out. He learned no one can own the water rights in Hawaii, but he was able to lease it for 99 years instead. He also figured out a unique way to market the water. Waiakea Water would be the only volcanic water on the market. The rain and snow cascades down through the porous volcanic rock that acts as nature’s filter. This leaves the water rich in electrolytes, alkaline, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and silica. With the term “volcanic water” associated with it, few people would be able to forget it. The coolness factor on the name alone would be enough to get many people to at least try it one time. Emmons thought the taste and benefits of the water would keep people coming back for more.
However, Emmons knew that the bottled water industry was a double-edged sword. Only about 20 percent of water bottles get recycled every year. This means that there are billions that do not get recycled, and it takes 1,000 to 1,500 years to fully decompose at the cost of our environment. Also, the amount of energy and pollution it takes to create the manufacturing of plastic bottles is enough to damage the environment on its own. It’s the dark secret of the bottled water industry. Many of their products are doing more bad than good. Emmons goal was to become more environmentally responsible and socially conscious than other bottled water businesses.
After studying packaging options, Waiakea went with rPET bottles manufactured from post-consumer recycled plastic because it produced the lowest emissions for shipping. By doing that, they were named one of the first premium bottled waters in the world to be certified Carbon Neutral. Also, they have began using the nano-additive TimePlast in the manufacturing of their plastic bottles. TimePlast allows Waiakea’s plastic bottles to fully decompose on their own in 15 years instead of the 1,500 years that it takes other plastic water bottles. Thus, saving the environment centuries of plastic litter. Hopefully, other plastic manufacturers will start to use TimePlast in the near future as well.
In addition, if you are drinking bottled water, then you may not actually realize this, but almost a billion people across the globe do not have access to clean water, let alone bottled water. Something that most of us take for granted is a scarce commodity in many parts of the world. Almost 2.5 billion people do not have appropriate sanitation facilities in their community. Emmons noticed this and wanted to have Waiakea Water help improve these situations.
Waiakea has partnered up with Pump Aid in providing clean water to communities that otherwise would not have access to it. For every liter of Waiakea Water sold, a week’s supply of clean water is donated to these regions. Over 500 million liters of clean water have been provided to rural regions through digging wells and building pumps. If only more companies would do this to help those less fortunate.
The Specialty Food Association is not the only company that has recognized Waiakea Water and Ryan Emmons recently. A couple years ago, they were also awarded the Best in Biz Award for the most socially responsible company in North America. In 2016, Waiakea Water was ranked number 8 by Beverage World Magazine as the Disruptor of the Beverage Industry. And finally, it was ranked at number 414 on the Inc. 500 List for fastest growing companies in America.
The future is bright for Ryan Emmons and Waiakea Volcanic Water. They are quickly rising up through the ranks and making their presence felt in the bottled water industry. With the newer technology that they are incorporating into manufacturing, the best is yet to come for the company.
Read our last article on Waiakea water here!