From The Founder

Dear Valued Clients &
Friends of Aqua Maestro
:

A great start to the new year! January was by far the biggest month ever for this company that started in 2002 with two employees, and an inventory not much bigger than what some of our larger wholesale clients carry today. The interest continues to grow in many of the brands that Aqua Maestro imports on an exclusive basis - which says something very positive about both the quality of the products, and the discernment of our clients.

Growth is exciting. It is also challenging. Fortunately, we had a trouble-free month in our operations department. Kudos to Karl and Craig, who make it all happen at our Fort Lauderdale plant, and to their dedicated drivers and warehouse workers - especially Rory, Tom, and Scooter. Nothing is more disruptive than problems with equipment, scheduling, or a myriad of logistical matters.

The new packing systems for glass are also doing extremely well. We just got delivery of the last complement of custom shippers for small glass items, and they are being phased in. Four years of trial and error - but it looks like we got it this time. Fine bottled water in glass is both fragile, and heavy. So we really had to pioneer adaptive technologies and methodologies.

If there's a downside to having a spike in business it's the effect on inventory. As you know, the overwhelming majority of our stock comes in containers from abroad. It is tricky to anticipate what levels of inventory to carry on some 160 SKUs, and then hope the lead times for the next arrivals will jive with depletion. Please work with us. If a particular item is out - and it should only be for a short time - experiment with something else. That's exactly how so many of our brands have gained acceptance and popularity.

Super Bowl LXI was in Miami. The Bears and the Colts put on a great show. Aqua Maestro are not suppliers to the venue or to either team, but we did notice a little uptick in orders from several of the South Florida hotels. South Floridians didn't have a major rooting interest in this matchup per se, with the exception of University of Florida alumnae who wanted to see the Bears quarterback, Rex Grossman, do his alma mater proud. I think it's fair to say the better team won - Congrats to Peyton Manning and the Colts!

ICEROCKS is starting to pull in orders. We have not rolled it out on the wholesale level yet, but private clients are taking to it. We think the product is a real winner, and we had our web design firm create a special offer for the product as part of the online shopping cart function.

The evidence and media attention recently focused on contaminated ice is compelling. From a hygienic standpoint, there's no doubt about the benefit. I think it's also just a very cool product, the absolute perfect accompaniment to beverage service, whether it's a cocktail or a glass of fine bottled water. ICEROCKS also just announced that New York Jets star, Jonathan Vilma, is their new public spokesperson. The URL of their release, which has a link to the interview with Mr. Vilma, is: http://www.marketwire.com/mw/
release_html_b1?release_id=210081
.

Our newest product, Wildalp, from Austria, should hit our warehouse this month too. We will automatically provide small size courtesy samples for all of our Penguin Club Members - and for anyone who requests a sample. Wildalp is an extraordinarily fine water with a pedigree to match. Please try it and enjoy it.

Finally, a small apology. In last month's edition, there was a story in the "Pipeline" section about the proliferation of provocatively named Energy Drinks. These products are out there (in more ways than one), and I thought it was pretty amusing to point up the extremes to which some bottlers have gone with names. Evidently, the names were a bit too provocative for the sensibilities of one of our readers. The good news is that there's a new breed of chill-out/inner-peace beverages around the corner. We'll give those names equal time.

As always, please feel free to email me at gene@geneddonney.com.

Thanks – Gene


Welcome Aboard

Pure Water Clean Air Group
Stacie-Lee, Inc.
661 S. Williams Road, Suite # 4
Palm Desert, CA 92264

Via Genova
140 King Street
Chappaqua, NY 10514
www.viagenova.com
914-861-2301

LeVilla Restaurant
#404-1851 Sirocco Drive S.W.
Calgary  Alberta
Canada T3H4R5
403-217-9699

Hershey Lodge
West Chocolate Ave & University Dr.
Hershey, PA 17033
http://www.hersheypa.com/

Il Marco
99 SE Mizner Blvd
Boca Raton, FL 33431
561-558-5699
http://www.ilmarco.com/


Water Pix


Diane Felissimo
Via Genova Restaurant
in Chappaqua, NY


Send us your favorite (or any!) digital picture of your brand of choice at home, work, play, or at a restaurant - and a beautiful free gift basket from us to you will be on its way. You don't have to be over 21 (or 18, or 16...) to submit your pix.



Featured Water

Speyside Glenlivet



In the foreground above is the bottling plant of Speyside Glenlivet water. In the background is the Crown Estate of Glenlivet. “Crown,” as in HRH Queen Elizabeth, because the monarchy owns this incredibly picturesque expanse in northwestern Scotland. The Glenlivet Estate, as a point of interest, is less than twenty miles from Balmoral. Talk about nice real estate…

The company’s commercial operation is the result of a development project begun in 1993 in an arrangement between entrepreneurs and the crown. The owners of the Speyside water business are private shareholders, primarily English, including a former principal of a major chain of stationery stores. The game “rock, paper, scissors,” Speyside style, might better be called “water, paper, scissors.”

In fact, the full structure is three-way: the aforementioned private owners of the water business, the monarchy, and the local Council of Moray under whose local auspices the bottling company operates.

The nearest village is called Tomintoul, and Gene D. Donney, CEO & Founder of Aqua Maestro, arrived there late on a Friday night in July to enjoy the local culture before meeting with Speyside Monday morning.

Tomintoul is small and epitomizes the word “quaint.” Accommodations did not feature modern amenities – telephone calls had to be made through a pay box in the village square – but the lack in technology was compensated by sheer beauty, and the unmistakable friendliness of the people. The north end of the village square and the inn are pictured below.



As you might expect, Speyside Glenlivet is not a giant company. They squarely fit the boutique category, catering to a select audience with their branded delicacy. The plant has only one production line that is capable of filling about 200 bottles per hour of .75 L bottles, and 400 bottles per hour of the .33 L bottle.



This infrastructure is perfectly fine for all current needs, and present output could be tripled without requiring any expansion, according to Lisa Appleby, Speyside’s Logistics Administrator. Speyside will therefore always be a limited production brand intended for discerning consumers. The elegant bottle and classy label accurately reflect the nature of the company.

Consistent with the pristine quality of this gorgeous, rugged countryside, the chemistry of Speyside Glenlivet is equally pure. The geology is a 500 million year-old rock formation called the Braes of Glenlivet. The springs – named Slochd and Clash – are at an altitude of 1,520 feet. Speyside’s pH is 7.7, a slightly alkalinic level favored by many because it delivers a slightly sweet aftertaste. Total Dissolved Solids are a mere 58 milligrams per liter, ranking Speyside in the “pure” category. Nitrates are extremely low at 1.0 mg/l, and the only two chemical elements with any prominence are Bicarbonates at 45 mg/l, and Calcium, which weighs in at 13 mg/l.

Since Aqua Maestro introduced this product in 2006, its following has grown significantly, and the brand is now at many fine hotels and resorts. In part because it’s also the ideal complement to Scotch whisky (especially single malt – in fact, there is a Speyside Single Malt Scotch whisky made of the same water) Speyside is an item that scores of our private clients now order.

The brand is bottled in both the .33 Liter and .75 Liter sizes as mentioned above, and both sizes are available in still or sparkling versions.

To order Speyside Glenlivet, please call or email Alexis Donney-Brillinger in the Private Client Division – 561 392 3336 x 100; adb@aquamaestro.com. Wholesale inquiries should be directed to Shirley Costanza, sc@aquamaestro.com.


Pipeline

SEI What?

The high end PET (plastic) bottled water industry has an important new player. And its name is SEI – yes, pronounced like the word “say.” The brand owner tells Aqua Maestro that Sei is a word with many meanings in different Asian nations; in Japan it means “holy.” The name’s real story though is that it’s the first name of the company owner’s son. Now that’s a real christening!

SEI is produced in three sizes - .275 Liter, .5 Liter, and 1.0 Liter (the 1.0 Liter is pictured, and the other two sizes are the same but smaller versions). The fabulous presentation has already won awards, including the 2005 NACD Gold Award for Packaging, and was finalist in Best Bottle in PET at the 2006 Bottle Water World Bottle Water Awards.

The totally transparent flask (and transparent cap) is manufactured in Europe to SEI’s specifications, and we have a hunch it is going to attract a lot of attention.

Another Downer for Booze

Of course we do not compete with or compare our products to world of wine, beer and spirits, but we read the industry publications and report the trends. One measure of product category growth (or decline) is “New Product Introductions.” Makes sense. If a market sector is hot, it’s a pretty sure bet that newcomers will come to the party.

According industry publication Beverage Industry, there was a 3.6% decline in new alcohol beverage products in the period from 11/24/05 to 11/24/06. Sport drinks, soft drinks, and bottled water – which are lumped together in a single category in their report – posted a 10.5% increase.

A Matter of Taste

Taste is a complex phenomenon. The general impression of water is that it’s tasteless, but we know that’s not true. Just like wine, differences in the taste of water can range from subtle to obvious. Treated water, in effect the equivalent of pasteurized milk, will usually taste fairly similar from brand to brand unless the plant equipment is subpar, or to the extent and type of any ingredients that might be added to “polish” the water after it is “cleaned.”

In the world of fine natural waters – waters from superior sources that are bottled as they come from the earth – the determinants of “taste” are essentially the degree of mineralization (especially minerals with an extra prominence), and the pH.

The common minerals found in natural water are Calcium, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Bicarbonates, Sulphates, Chlorides, Silica, and the dreaded Nitrates. Calcium will tend to impart a somewhat chalky flavor if there is a lot of it. Saltiness is also realtively apparent in brands with high Sodium levels.

Nitrates are poison, and come from nasty things we’d rather not write about, so the ideal level is zero – but anything in the 5.0 milligram per liter or lower area is considered good. According to the FDA, the maximum allowable nitrogen-nitrate content is far, far higher, but we won’t get into that either.

“Pure” natural waters, in the vernacular used at Aqua Maestro, have a TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) of 100 milligrams per liter or less. The highest category of mineral strength – “Very Heavy” – has a TDS of 2,500 mg/l or greater. This wide range is a good general indicator of how much “mouth feel” a natural water will have.

The other major aspect of a natural water’s taste is its pH. pH is a scientific term that denotes the degree of sourness (acidity) or bitterness (alkalinity) in water (or any other substance). 7.0 is dead neutral – neither sour nor bitter. As a reference point, the human body’s pH is approximately 7.2.

Alkalinity plays some tricks to the taste buds. Most people would have little trouble noticing sourness, especially after it is pointed out. But alkalinity, at low levels, actually creates a slight sensation of sweetness. It’s only when the pH rises above 8.0 that true bitterness can be felt, and even then it is not too pronounced. The reason for this is outside our expertise, but it probably has something to do with the amount of acidity in the mouth and digestive system.

Reproduced below from our web site - www.aquamaestro.com/managers.asp - are the relative rankings of brands. The column on the left relates to TDS, that is, mineral strength. On the right are brands grouped in their pH levels.

Pure
Daggio
Ducale
Finé
Lauretana
Mount Olympus
Spa Reine
Speyside
Via Natural
Voss

Very Light
Fiuggi
Highland Spring
Levissima
Lynx
Panna
Ty Nant
Volvic

Light
Evian
Gleneagles
Hildon
LLanllyr
San Benedetto
Saratoga Springs
Sole
Tau
Tipperary

Medium
Cape Karoo
Cristaline
Perrier
Ramlosa
Vittel

Heavy
Badoit
Borsec
San Pellegrino
Wattwiller

Very Heavy
Apollinaris
Contrex
Ferrarelle
Gerolsteiner
Vichy Catalan

Slight Bitter Aftertaste
Gleneagles

Hint of Sweetness
Ducale
Finé
Highland Spring
Levissima
Lynx
San Benedetto
San Pellegrino
Speyside
Tipperary
Vittel
Wattwiller

Neutral
Cape Karoo
Contrex
Cristaline
Daggio
Evian
Fiuggi
Hildon
LLanllyr
Mount Olympus
Panna
Saratoga Springs
Sole
Tau
Ty Nant
Vichy Catalan
Volvic

Slight Sour Foward Taste
Borsec
Ferrarelle
Via Natural
Voss

Sourness
Apollinaris
Badoit
Gerolsteiner
Lauretana
Perrier
Ramlosa
Spa Reine


What’s new in Minibars?

It hasn’t happened on a broad scale yet, but the trend is away from minibars. Food & Beverage managers at high end properties are beginning to phase out the units because of time consuming, inevitable disputes by guests over the charges. (“Did the maids really eat all that candy?") One executive claims that many of his well-heeled guests use the small refrigerators to store medications, or supplies they bought inexpensively down the street.

The replacement, already in effect at certain Caribbean properties, is an “Amenity Package.” If you want a dose of sweets, then the hospitality unit will send you a sweets package. Ditto on cheeses, fruits, etc.

Drinks will need to be ordered, except that certain combinations – like Champagne and hors d’oevres, and other traditional bookends – will be available in “convenience packages.”

FUZE-ion

Beverage World magazine called FUZE “…hot, innovative, and trendsetting…hit the mark with its line of healthy infusions..” in a recent issue. It seems that Coca-Cola agrees.

In January, it was announced that the whale was swallowing the minnow. Except it wasn’t such a minnow. The world’s largest beverage maker agreed to buy juice and tea maker FUZE Beverage LLC, headquartered in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, for an undisclosed amount. And according to unofficial sources, the “undisclosed amount” would choke a herd of horses. Bill Pecoriello, a sector analyst at Morgan Stanley, estimates that FUZE had revenues of about $90 million last year.

The FUZE Beverage brands include the Vitalize, Refresh, Tea and Slenderize lines under the FUZE trademark, WaterPlus enhanced water products, and license rights to the Nos Energy Drink brands. There were already twenty Coca-Cola bottlers distributing the FUZE lines, and it must have been perceived as a “ree-ly big shew,” like old Ed Sullivan used to say on TV. A great success story for a company that opened its doors in 2001.




© 2007