It’s fitting that the inspiration for such an innovative product as Flow Alkaline Spring Water should come from an unusual place: California’s Burning Man festival. Shocked to see the incredible amount of plastic bottles being trucked out at the end of the festival, entrepreneur Nicholas Reichenbach set out to find an alternative. He already had the right product: remarkably pure-tasting natural alkaline water, from an artesian spring on family land in South Bruce County, Ontario, Canada. For the package, he turned to Tetra Pak and Tetra Prisma Aseptic 500 Edge with DreamCap – the perfect fit for a premium, all-natural product with impeccable environmental credentials.
Flow is a privately-owned company with around 90 employees and a single manufacturing site, in Aurora just north of Toronto. Founded in 2015, it has grown rapidly to become one of the top five waters in the natural channel in North America and is currently sold in more than 15,000 locations across Canada, the US and Europe.
The collaboration between Flow and Tetra Pak is a close one. This is an example of a launch where the choice of package – in this case, Tetra Prisma Aseptic 500 Edge with DreamCap – is absolutely critical, reflecting and reinforcing the ethos behind the product itself. As Flow CEO Nicholas Reichenbach put it in a recent interview with Forbes magazine, “It wasn’t until I conceived of the idea to bottle the water in eco-friendly packaging that it truly felt right.” The two companies share a commitment to promoting recycling and the use of renewable materials, and to innovation: Tetra Pak continues to support Flow with the launch of new package sizes and new varieties of water. Flow has purchased a Tetra Pak® A3/Flex line and a Tetra Pak® Accumulator Helix 30, as well as a Tetra Pak® Cardboard Packer 32.
At the time of the launch in 2015, the market for packaged water was dominated by single use plastic bottles. However, market research carried out by Flow showed a clear appetite among consumers for something different: 58% said they purchased water based on the eco-friendliness of the package, while 61% would look to see the source of the water. Almost half – 49% – said they were prepared to pay a premium for a sustainable product. The range at launch comprised pure unflavoured water plus four natural, organic flavours – cucumber + mint, strawberry + rose, lemon + ginger and watermelon + lime. And two new flavours have recently been launched – grapefruit + elderflower, and blackberry + hibiscus – all at a price point comparable with other premium waters, such as FIJI® Water and the Norwegian brand Voss®.
From the start, Flow has run a sophisticated promotional campaign, with a strong focus on digital channels and social media. Live events, sweepstakes, and sponsorships actively engage with a community of supporters and advocates all living “In the Flow”.
The company also actively seeks partnerships and collaborations with other organisations and initiatives that share their ethos, including the international yoga festival Wanderlust and advocacy group Global Citizen, as well as recruiting authentic ambassadors who are fans of the product to act as powerful influencers on behalf of the brand. Josh Donaldson, porefessionla baseball player, formerly of the Toronto Blue Jays team, was an early adoptee and brand spokesperson. Some additional celebrity fans will be announced soon. The brand has also partnered with actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle site Goop to promote the brand in 2019.
Key messages include raising awareness of how alkaline water can support health and wellbeing and promoting the sustainable credentials of the package and company. Flow is building its presence offline, too: following a recent revamp, retailers are increasingly making use of the secondary packaging from its multi-packs to create in-store displays. Consumers can also sign up for home delivery and have Flow brought to their door in electric, or carbon neutral vehicles.
The key lesson here is a simple one: start with an excellent product. Add to that a compelling brand story and an innovative, engaging marketing campaign aimed at building a community around the product, and you have a major success story on your hands. The proof is clear to see: 500% growth each year over the past two years, and a place in the top five waters in the natural channel in North America. Figures to the end of 2018 also show growth in water in carton packaging outstripping total category growth: by 11.3% to 4.9% in Canada, and by 15.3% to 5.3% in the US. Flow has also gained external recognition for its responsible approach to business: it is now designated a Certified B Corporation, meaning that it reaches the highest standards of social environment performance, public transparency and legal accountability.
Since the initial launch, Flow has expanded the line from plain unflavoured water in Tetra Prisma Aseptic 1000 Square into organic flavours and is now about to launch in a smaller package, Tetra Prisma Aseptic 330 Sq with DreamCap, perfect for new consumers to sample its product range. Plans are also underway to launch a highly innovative product, Flow Glow, a “complete wellness water” infused with CBD, and a range of powerful botanicals and antioxidants.