From The Founder
Dear Valued Clients &
Friends of Aqua Maestro:
Global warming went into hibernation for a week+ in mid-February. A mass of arctic air pushed into the middle of the country, and then spread throughout some thirty states. This disrupted shipping to our home delivery clients in the affected areas because once we started to see some breakage from the extreme cold we suspended deliveries until the weather broke. Full coverage restarted February 19. The weather put us back in our packing and shipping schedule by almost five days, and as we entered March we were still two to three days behind.
The "switch" was thrown in February between Voss Waters online and Aqua Maestro. Pursuant to an agreement between our companies, Aqua Maestro now handles 100% of the Voss Internet business, and clicks to the Voss Water Store bring the browser directly to Voss at Aqua Maestro. We look forward to a great, long term E-Commerce relationship with Voss. Those of you who receive home delivery of this great brand will also notice the new, branded shipping boxes.
While another record was set by the Retail home delivery division in February - frigid temperatures, and a short calendar month notwithstanding - the weather did affect our Wholesale Division. Wholesale revenues were down from the record pace in January, in part because the cold weather reduced orders from hospitality accounts even here in South Florida where the mercury dropped into the 40s and 50s. March is typically very strong, so we anticipate a rebound this month in Wholesale, and the likelihood of another record high in Retail.
Apart from some returns due to frozen bottles, we are thrilled that so far we still have not had a single impact breakage incident connected with the new packing materials and techniques. Literally - as far as I know (and please email me if I'm wrong) - impact breakage from shipping and handling during transit has fallen to a zero rate. It takes our packers a little longer to assemble the orders, but it is worth it for all of us!
I hope you enjoy our March selections for Water-Of-The-Month. Our glass selection is the incomparable Wattwiller, from the Alsace Region of France. Appreciation of this ancient delicacy in the US grows all the time. If you have never tried Wattwiller, I'd encourage it. For PET(*) plastic WOTM takers, we showcase our newest brand - and the FEATURED WATER in this edition of FOUNTAINHEAD - Wildalp. With 9.2 milligrams per liter of natural Oxygen content, low Sodium, and high purity, Wildalp is likely to become wildly popular.
I put an asterisk (*) in the preceding paragraph next to the acronym "PET". Several times each month I receive an email asking the exact meaning of PET. Here it is: PET stands for polyethylene terephthalate, a plastic resin and a form of polyester. Polyethylene terephthalate is a polymer that is formed by combining two monomers called modified ethylene glycol and purified terephthalic acid. It is a standard compound for containerizing food and beverage products because of its durable, non-reactive properties.
The next question that sometimes follows is: "Is PET safe, and doesn't it give the water a funny taste?" Yes, it is safe. However water in PET, stored over a long period of time, particularly in warm conditions, can acquire a slight plasticky, or "fruity" taste (see article "What is that funny taste?" in PIPELINE). Again, it is not harmful even when it tastes "off" according to FDA and scientific literature (despite occasional contrary accusations). PET water, no matter what brand, should be consumed within six months to a year of purchase, and stored in a cool place.
The South Beach Wine and Beer Festival took place February 22-24. As always, the signature affair was well attended as vendors clamored to outdo each other to the delight of participants. We'd recommend a visit next year to our clients in South Florida whose appetite for fine beverages extends beyond the fine water category!
As always, please feel free to email me at email@example.com.
Lexus of Glendale
1221 S. Brand Blvd.
Glendale, California 91204
Ritz Carlton New York, Battery Park
2 West Street
New York, NY 10004
155 E. 42nd Street
New York, NY 10017
Grande's Bella Cucina
4580 Donald Ross Village
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33410
Angler's Boutique Resort
628 1/2 6th Street
Miami Beach, Florida 33139
Styria, home of Wildalp, is a state in southeastern Austria about fifty kilometers north of the Slovenian border. It is approximately one hundred kilometers from both Vienna to the northeast, and to Linz northwest. Styria’s geography is mountainous, as the western and southern portions of Austria lie within the Alps.
Their current bottling capacity is some 630,000 liters per day, and the total available output is in the hundreds of millions of liters annually, although Wildalp only bottles a tiny percentage. The water’s purity and chemistry is attributable to three things: the limestone rock which the mountains are made of, the elevation, and the pristine protected environment.
The company’s current management is intent on internationalizing their treasure. Wildalp’s Managing Director, Dr. Karl Matschisch, already has the brand established outside Austria in Germany, France, Greece, Cyprus, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Korea, Taiwan and now in the US through Aqua Maestro.
The incredibly pure, sweet taste is the first thing that strikes anyone drinking Wildalp. It is almost indescribable. A look at the water's chemistry provides the answer. Wildalp Alpine Spring Water has a somewhat alkalinic pH value of 7.8, Veteran readers of FOUNTAINHEAD, and water connoisseurs, know that there is a sweet aftertaste produced by waters in the 7.2 - 7.9 range of pH. 7.8 is toward the high side; were it not for the extraordinary amount of natural Oxygen in the water - not the gimmick oxygen in so-called "02" infused waters - Wildalp could risk having a slight bitter aftertaste. Not the case however. In fact, far from it, and the key to Wildalp's unqiue sweet, clean taste is the oxygen level.
Within the Total Dissolved Solids of 178 miiligrams per liter, which qualifies Wildalp as a "Very Low Mineral water", there is only a trace of Sodium (1,97 mg/l), Calcium is appreciable at 42 mg/l, and both the Sulphate and Magnesium content are 12 mg/l. Nitrates are low at 3.7 mg/l.
The "Baby" version is optimally suitable for preparing baby food. The Seisenstein spring of Wildalpen Wasserverwertungs GmbH holds the Market Suitability Certificate for Pure Spring Water, which means that the water inside the bottled water has exactly the same chemical values as the spring itself (1:1). Additionally, Wildalp has a special International Health Certificate and the Quality Certificate of the Municipality of Wildalpen.
Aqua Maestro has imported two sizes of Wildalp to America in our first container of the product. The 1.0 Liter (above) as well as the .5 Liter (left) are impeccably packaged in heavy PET. The bottles are perfectly cylindrical; labels simple and elegant, and the matching clear caps are a lovely finish to the package.
To order Wildalp, please call or email Alexis Donney-Brillinger in the Private Client Division - 561 392 3336 x 100; firstname.lastname@example.org. Wholesale inquiries should be directed to Shirley Costanza, email@example.com.
What is That Funny Taste?
Plastics and resins companies continually try to improve the quality of PET plastic. The latest innovation comes from Eastman Chemical Company in Tennessee. They claim to be in the forefront of "the next generation of PET resins."
Called ParaStar, the PET compound has two great properties. Cosmetically, the compound has the clarity of glass - or very near to it - and the consistency of the resin's transparency in manufacturing has been shown to be extraordinarily high.
The other key benefit relates to the taste. There is a compound in PET called acetaldehyde, or "AA" for short, that gets released over time into the bottle's content. The leaching of this inert, organically safe compound causes what manufacturers refer to as a "fruity" taste. In flavored drinks, the AA taste effect cannot be detected, but it can be noticed by some people in water, especially if the bottle sits a long time before consumption. The new ParaStar compound reduces by 25% the release of AA, and therefore commensurately lowers the taste effect.
As the new compound works its way into the marketplace, we'll try to keep readers updated.
Good Press or Bad Press?
In February, ABC News did a TV feature on the most outrageous and expensive bottled waters. The piece used the "outrageous" angle as its hook, and while we thought the report was sort of amusing, it really did not do justice to the mainstream segment of fine bottled water - either in terms of product benefits, or any relationship to the more normal price points for the kind of water Aqua Maestro sells.
For your viewing "pleasure," here's the link: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Business/story?id=2883752&page=1
The expert voice of reason, Dr. Michael Mascha of Fine Waters, was given only a small window in the rather lengthy feature, and Michael tells us he was interviewed for hours both on-camera and off. Ironically, at Aqua Maestro, where we sell some of the most expensive waters addressed by ABC (but not at the prices they spoke about!), we had an uptick in orders for these items immediately after the airing.
So, good press, or bad press?
Ready-to-Drink Tea Beverages Exploding
As the same generational demographics driving fine bottled water ripple through the beverage industry, the most recent major beneficiary has been RTD (ready-to-drink) Teas. There has been a 19% increase in per capita consumption in this sector since 2002 - and a 15% spike in the latest year with full compiled data (2005).
A look within the numbers shows particular likes and dislikes. Consumers have dropped their cans and gone plastic. The decline in canned tea packages, as a percentage of all RTD Tea purchases, dropped by 50% in a four-year period. Concurrently, plastic PET purchases shot up by the same 50%.
In terms of segmentation by cost and quality, the statistics are also interesting. In the year-on-year data from 2004 to 2005, "Fountain" teas only increased 4.2%, and "Popular Priced" (read; "cheap") tea products went up 11%. But the "Premium" segment increased by 22%, and the "Super Premium" segment skyrocketed 35%.
Aqua Maestro has long carried the incredible San Benedetto flavored teas from Italy, and will be looking further into this high demand "Super Premium" trend.
As Pretty as the Price
A famous tag line for a clothing store that always stuck in the mind was, “An educated consumer is our best customer.” We agree. With all the media attention focused on fine bottled water these days and highly “spun” stories like the ABC feature we thought it would be good to remind our clients of what goes into the price.
As you probably suspect, raw cost of the water itself is the smallest component. Typically, even with the best natural waters in the world like the ones carried by Aqua Maestro, the raw water cost may be from as little as 2-3% to as much as 5-10% of the total price. Transportation and packaging are the primary cost components.
The cost-per-case for transportation and logistics to import fine water from Europe is approximately $3.75 per case, subject to some variance depending on the country of origin, and other factors such as currency exchange rate, fuel prices, and the exact number of cases per pallet, and per container. The packaging cost ranges from just a few dollars a case for certain PET items, all the way up to $10+ per case for some of the higher end “Designer Glass” items. In the “Custom Fancy Glass” packaging category, the sky is the limit, and per-case packaging the bottles, caps, boxes, etc can start at $25 and go well above $100.
Marketing and associated distributor costs are usually a few bucks; and operating margins for wholesalers and retailers tack on to arrive at the final price tag. If you do the math, you can pretty quickly appreciate that Aqua Maestro sells fine waters at a fine markup.
The short story, as the headline indicates, is that your favorite item is largely “as pretty as the price.” For your reference, the Packaging Categories from our web site’s Food & Beverage Manager’s Guide (http://www.aquamaestro.com/managers.asp) are shown below.
Last month, PIPELINE carried story on SEI Water, whose uniqueness is its flask-shaped PET bottle. ICIO, from West Hollywood, California, has a nice twist on the new flask theme.
Whereas SEI is natural unflavored water from the Catskill Mountains of New York, ICIO is launching a natural peppermint extract flavored water designed specifically for the dance club and bar scene. The 12-ouncer fits neatly into jean pockets or handbags, and will retail for $3-5 on-premise. Retailers are likely to price it at $2 a bottle.
If it gets to South Beach, we'll know it has arrived.