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Posts Tagged ‘qatrah awards’

Reading Seth’s blog earlier on the endless search for wow, his closing paragraph (quoted including his punctuation) makes a lot of sense to me… “In the race between ‘who’ and ‘how many’, who usually wins – if action is your goal. Find the right people, those that are willing to listen to what you have to say, and ignore the masses that are just going to race on, unchanged.”

As a challenger brand, we are completely focussed on who, and for the time being at least, we largely ignore the how many; as independents, there’s little prospect and indeed little point in us going flat-out to spend money we don’t have to convince people to try AQUAPAX if they prefer flavoured / carbonated beverages, or if they really don’t have any feeling for the purity and integrity of our product and what it stands for. If you’re cool with plastic then why would we want to give you a free AQUAPAX?

The essence of what Seth wrote is to do with branding and brand identification / acceptance by the market, yet at another level, Seth is wrong. Marketing is just one facet of business and while it’s the one we consider most important, a recent investment of $22M by Siva Group for 50% of a Norwegian water brand shows that smoke and mirrors (wow by any other name) still applies if you’re trying to seduce an investment manager within a $3Bn portfolio and seemingly little grasp of reality.

The brand in question bought retail market share at the expense of margin (and at real cost) with a ‘me too’ product under increasing ecological scrutiny, yet the investment community sees the mass distribution achieved and believes this will translate into long-term sustainable (presumably profitable?) market share.

With a low value product like water, I question how a production base in Norway can translate into a globally competitive and profitable business for a mid range brand, but that’s really not our problem… the investment managers who made the call probably have their own plans to sell on to some other gullible fund manager when the time is right for them.

We can’t consider the specifics of ‘precisely how’ as we follow our path – the one Seth and others in touch with the zeitgeist advocate as correct. We’re turning over every stone and moving in the right direction, in the UK, France and in Holland. AQUAPAX (our award-winning natural mineral water, that’s packaged in paper cartons and which is so pure it’s even suitable for babies) is the change we want everyone to experience. While we are proud of AQUAPAX appearing as the mineral water of choice in 5 star resorts on the Maldives and the Caribbean, we’re also intrigued that we haven’t yet had the umpteen million dollar offer for our shares!

It is pleasing though, that we keep on touching folk who care enough about what we’re doing, to pass on our message through their own free will and belief that it’s right and that our time has come. We also have some larger scale distribution up our sleeves to soon make it a little easier for you to refresh on the move without feeling guilty. I wonder how investment managers define all that within their ‘wow based’ business plans?

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There’s a degree of hypocrisy among many well meaning folk with fundamentally good intentions but closed minds. They hear or read a little about something and become disciples of the cause, without really understanding anything about the process or ‘thing’ they’re advocating.

Everything is fundamentally recyclable or capable of re-use for some purpose other than which it was originally created, and at the risk of being called a heretic, being recyclable is not ‘the holy grail’ when making a product choice. The order for thinking people who really want to minimise their planetary impact should be (a.) do I need to consume this? (b.) is this the most sustainable option? (c.) am I compromising my personal tastes or quality standards? (d.) do I have the means to afford my choice?

Embracing product sustainability as opposed to base level recyclability is the next step we need to teach the masses, which is quite a technically challenging communication to execute.

Most folk don’t want detail; they’re happy to know a little about something and to close their minds to any ignorance. That is human nature, so we shouldn’t knock it, but I do so appreciate consumers who take the time to ask why, and who more importantly, open their minds to listen to the answer.

To bring today’s piece around to bottled water (as you’re expecting me to); portable packaged water is a unique product within a media driven customer psyche. The ‘moral’ decision for ‘planet conscious’ consumers is whether to ever buy into this product category at all. Bear witness the small Australian town of Bundanoon’s recent headline grabbing bottled water ban, which I’ve previously blogged on.

Considering the alternatives are either fattening, contain sugars, additives or alcohol, most thinking people will accept the necessary evil of a pure beverage as a distress solution when there is no tap accessible. That doesn’t oblige consumption; it simply allows choice for when one doesn’t choose to hydrate with any of the aforementioned alternatives.

As customer focussed businesses, retailers and caterers are obliged to service customer needs, so they cannot be criticised too severely for stocking this product category, however, their commitment to CSR should be challenged…

A well thought out CSR policy must drive a sustainable procurement approach – one where satisfying customer needs in an ecologically sensitive way, without compromising product quality, is appropriately weighted on the ‘decision scorecard’ being used.

A parochial approach to bottled water so often leads to customer choice being restricted to whichever bottled water is packaged closest to where it’s being consumed, irrespective of its quality or true ecological impact. This geographic weighting ignores the genuine attributes of products which often come from further away, yet are proven to ‘cost less’ on any correctly weighted ecologically motivated score card.

Think inside the box – we’re only custodians of this maginificent planet, and it really does make sense! 🙂

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yours truly with the maestro Paul Rankin & his Aquapax

yours truly with the maestro Paul Rankin & his Aquapax

As always, there’s been a lot going on in Aquapax world over the past few weeks. It’s the silly season of shows at weekends and store samplings mid week, so taking a holiday has been the furthest thing from my mind, despite jovial e-mails from folk who read my blog wondering when I’m back.

We had a really successful 3 day Hatfield House Country Show this year, where the good fortune of being positioned next to Miles (the curry sauce man) certainly raised our sampling customer numbers. There was a special atmosphere in the Food Hall, as a few of us took turns at broadcasting the Ashes criscket score to visitors (and one another), causing spontaneous nervous laughter and the occassional ripple of applause. A particularly uplifting moment of the show was when an off duty representative of a well known supermarket engaged with me on why I created Aquapax, leading to an exchange of cards towards the end of the conversation… (watch this space)

The bank holiday weekend just gone was less illustrious, as we took a last minute stand in the Food Hall at the Stoneleigh Park Festival. The event has so much potential, but alas the Food Hall wasn’t laid out terribly well… Life is what we make of it, and in this instance, the time we had as ‘traders’ allowed us to get to know one another socially. The ‘Dunkirk spirit’ kicked in and the ‘celebrity chefs’ coordinated by the professionals at ‘chefs on stage’  were generous in their support of all the trade at the show, encouraging the public to engage and sample our wares. There are a lot worse ways to spend a bank holiday weekend and I’m grateful for the spontaneous social time ‘Neil waterguy’ spent with ‘Curry Sauce John’ & ‘Chocolate Heaven Lucy’.

Speaking of chefs, I met a wonderful Chef called Claire Harbron and get on with her like a lost friend. We’ve got a great alliance going with her and her fellow professionals at the dalston kitchen. They create the iconic ‘dk’ lunch boxes seen at the best photo shoots and outdoor events across town, where it’s a fantastic accolade they’ve chosen Aquapax as their water in the box! Kind of sums up their quality proposition really, which shouldn’t be any surprises for anyone who’s tried Aquapax.

Got a lot more web work to do in the coming weeks with my webtech friend Ian. We’ve discovered a typo on our French site (read carefully) and we also need to create a page for our new Dutch distribution alliance. Also want to plan the site development as the revolution is growing now and I really want to communicate that growth to keep our new recruits smilling. In the meanwhile, here’s something else to keep you smiling – our latest internet advertisement ‘the guillotine’ It’s all go in water world… 🙂

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Life has never been boring and this last weekend was spent enjoying some wonderfully talented bands playing live music at the Chalgrove Live Music Festival in Oxfordshire, where Aquapax was one of their core sponsors.  sunset over chalgrove

The Festival is designed for people to enjoy live music in a family fun atmosphere while raising money for local worthy causes – this year’s charity was ‘crossroads – caring for carers’.

They had 20 bands booked in total and the face painters and fun-fair helped bring a real family feel to this intimate live music fest, which was real fun to be a part of. spiderman likes aquapax

My son and I took a stand outside the beer tent  to offer ice cool Aquapax original (and energy drinks) to the bands as well as for the warm and weary members of the public – drinking beer for 12 hours in serious sunshine isn’t for the faint hearted, although we met plenty of people willing to try! 

All things considered, the event was well run and there were some genuinely nice people there. We had a really enjoyable weekend in the sunshine and it was great that the weather folk got it so wrong on this occasion!

zebra guy at the CLMF 2009

zebra guy at the CLMF 2009

Bands worthy of a mention from this particular critic were:

The Motowners ; Strange Folk (amazing voice) ; Quo Incidence (if you like that kind of thing) ; All Right Now (must be my generation) ; Jiv’in Jules Jazz Ensemble (pity a lot of folk were still in bed) ; The Whoo (?) Ann Duggan (amazing voice) ; and of course The Kommitments (always end with a good boogie…

Coming home to a warm shower and a proper bed are always a bonus of a festival – or any weekend in a tent for that matter!

A bit of good news this week is that Aqua Amore – ‘the UK’s largest water delivery specialist’ has responded to our customer demand in taking on home distribution for Aquapax across London and the home counties, plus wider distribution nationwide. Now the challenge is to dust off the enquiries database to see if we can bring this new alliance to their attention and help generate some home delivery orders in due course.

Tomorrow’s another day in the big smoke and then Friday is looking like a journey to Peterborough beckons. What is it they say about winners never quitting and quitters never winning…

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I’ve always liked spontaneity, however, some leaps of faith are still bigger than others; let me explain…

On Thursday 12 June, I had a call from Dubai asking if I was planning on attending the Qatrah awards we had entered Aquapax for. The Qatrah awards are the Arab world equivalent ‘beverage industry shindig’ and to be honest, I’d entered Aquapax on a whim because of the interest I’ve noticed from middle-eastern customers whenever I do my store demos.

“Do you believe it would be a good thing for my business?” I asked the project manager in a call back the following morning. “Definitely” came the reply – he explained the awards are the crowning pinnacle of success in the Arab beverage industry and that because Aquapax is so different, we had a great chance of qualifying as one of the finalists. This would guarantee publicity in the largest bottled water market in the world (based on per capita consumption) and there might be a good chance of me speaking at the conference if I was prepared to attend.

My spontaneous self said “go for it” and following discussion with my wife, I booked a carbon-offset air-ticket Sunday morning, for travel that evening down to Dubai via Bahrain with Gulf Air. I’m not familiar with that part of the world and despite my formative years in Africa, nothing quite prepared me for the 35 degree heat at 09:00 in the morning – it was apparent my shirt per day + one spare packing discipline, wasn’t going to suffice on this particular trip.

Summarising the trip – because I get bored reading long blogs – I got to meet some truly sincere and lovely people from the bottled water and wider beverage world, representing New Zealand, the USA, South Africa and from all corners of the Arab world. The contacts I’ve made are all very worthy and we now have potential access to co-packing partners in 3 countries, along with some genuine connections with ‘friends of my future’.

The speech I’d prepared on the flight down was delivered from my heart and really well received by the attendees at the Almiya (bottled water) forum. The Qatrah Awards evening was spectacular, with entertainment from whirling dervishes, dancers, plus an incredibly talented illusionist; to cap it all, we qualified as a finalist in the 2nd Annual Qatrah Awards as Best Bottled Water of the year 2008.

It was a really proud moment hearing Aquapax being listed as one of the top 3 finalists in the best bottled water category for 2008, along with big budget Evian and local favourite Al Ain (purified water) – and you could have knocked me over with a feather (quite literally) when Aquapax was then announced as the Winner of the Best Bottled Water of the Year 2008…

How did that happen, I asked myself, while silently giving thanks to the entire universe as I walked up on stage to take the spectacular glass trophy. Thank goodness I’d taken a suit along for the occasion; the chap from Red Bull hadn’t bothered, but I would have felt so embarrassed meeting the President of the Arab Beverage Association wearing anything less than a suit and tie.

To cap the whole trip off, I got to swim in the Persian Gulf for the first time – heck if I’m going to fly that far, there’s got to be some R&R time.

I haven’t exactly stopped since getting back, but that’s for another blog if I can squeeze one in tomorrow…

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