Premium wa­ter is the new wine

As con­sumers look for prod­ucts that of­fer more in terms of value than reg­u­lar re­fresh­ments, the per­cep­tion of drink­ing wa­ter prod­ucts is chang­ing and in­flu­enc­ing the bev­er­age mar­ket, es­pe­cially that of soft drinks. HN spoke to Dr. Michael Mascha, wa­ter so

Hospitality News Middle East - - CONTENTS -

The 5th Fine Wa­ters Sum­mit 2017, the big­gest event of its kind, which took place in Guangzhou, China, had as its over­ar­ch­ing theme the ‘pre­mi­u­miza­tion’ of the wa­ter seg­ment. Presentations by in­ter­na­tional ex­perts fo­cused on the cur­rent global sta­tus of this type of wa­ter, as well as the need for the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try to be­gin of­fer­ing wa­ter menu so­lu­tions and ed­u­cat­ing con­sumers. Us­ing a satel­lite phone while trav­el­ing through one of China’s rain­forests to con­nect to our HN of­fice in Beirut, Dr. Michael Mascha, wa­ter som­me­lier and the cre­ator/pub­lisher of Finewa­ters, a web­site por­tal that is the de­fin­i­tive voice for wa­ter con­nois­seurs, ex­plained that tap wa­ter is for hy­dra­tion, while premium bot­tled wa­ter de­serves a place at the ta­ble in an epi­curean con­text.

How would you de­scribe the global bot­tled wa­ter in­dus­try?

The in­dus­try is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a big up­swing. In the US, the sale of wa­ter has over­taken soda. This in­di­cates that con­sumers are fo­cus­ing on wa­ter as a healthy op­tion. What is ex­cit­ing for me and Martin Riese (Amer­ica’s first wa­ter som­me­lier), who is a good friend, is that the premium bot­tled wa­ter sec­tor is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the big­gest growth within that in­dus­try. Peo­ple are pay­ing closer at­ten­tion to where their wa­ter is com­ing from and we are work­ing on rais­ing aware­ness on all lev­els in that re­spect.

Which mar­kets are you in­ter­ested in and why?

I have been roam­ing in China for a while, so that should be one clear in­di­ca­tion. It is a very in­ter­est­ing mar­ket at the mo­ment; one which ev­ery­one wants to be in, due to its size and the grow­ing trend of con­sum­ing premium wa­ter. South Amer­ica is another re­ally great place for sourc­ing premium bot­tled wa­ter, found in some re­mote and un­der­de­vel­oped ar­eas that are show­ing great po­ten­tial.

What are the chal­lenges when it comes to points of en­try into those mar­kets?

Ir­re­spec­tive of how good a cer­tain premium wa­ter brand is, ed­u­ca­tion will re­main cen­tral to its adop­tion. Put sim­ply, peo­ple in the US still think that all bot­tled wa­ter is the same. Iron­i­cally, around 40 per­cent of bot­tled wa­ter sold is ac­tu­ally pu­ri­fied tap wa­ter, so there is a learn­ing curve, which equally ap­plies to the choices of foods or wines you con­sume.

What mar­kets are premium wa­ter brands thirst­ing to break into?

Ev­ery brand I talk to wants to be in two places: China and the Mid­dle East. How­ever, th­ese mar­kets are tightly reg­u­lated, mak­ing it al­most im­pos­si­ble for smaller brands to es­tab­lish a foothold. The prob­lem is fur­ther com­pounded for some of th­ese brands by the long wait times and the cost as­so­ci­ated with do­ing busi­ness there, mak­ing mar­ket en­try un­af­ford­able.

Does the same ap­ply to big­ger brands?

No, be­cause shelling out USD 100,000 to setup a distri­bu­tion sys­tem, ir­re­spec­tive of how much time it takes, is not a big deal for th­ese brands. On the other hand, if the smaller com­pa­nies can­not have a fast re­turn on their in­vest­ment, then it will not be fi­nan­cially fea­si­ble for them to even try. There­fore, you can only have the smaller brands if you have an open mar­ket sys­tem, whereas in closed mar­kets, you get main­stream, rather than premium brands.

What are the strate­gies used by premium wa­ter brands to at­tract con­sumers?

Aside from the source of the wa­ter, the next fron­tier will see wa­ter heav­ily paired with food. To help pro­mote that ini­tia­tive, we held the Finewa­ters In­ter­na­tional Taste & De­sign Awards in Ecuador. The event hosted the coun­try’s most re­puted chef, Juan Car­los Or­doñez, who cre­ated a five-course menu with five wa­ter som­me­liers pair­ing the dishes pre­pared. Those present were blown away by the ef­fect that dif­fer­ent wa­ters had on the food. Even the chef re­al­ized that peo­ple en­joy­ing his food were not dis­tracted by the wine. This con­firmed to us that the fu­ture pro­po­nents of the trend will be the chefs and I would not be sur­prised if, in the near fu­ture, up­scale restau­rants of­fer a set-course menu paired with wa­ter, rather than wine.

What other sec­tors will the wa­ter in­dus­try be branch­ing into?

When you make choco­late ganache, you add milk, which clouds the choco­late’s taste. Choco­latier Peter Swen­ing­son had the idea of re­plac­ing milk with wa­ter and once you taste his cre­ations, it’s like tast­ing choco­late for the very first time. The re­sult drove him to fur­ther ex­per­i­ment, us­ing the same choco­late, but dif­fer­ent wa­ters. In other words, the wa­ter in­dus­try is ex­pand­ing and en­ter­ing other sec­tors and this will re­sult in a num­ber of sur­pris­ing prod­ucts in the com­ing years.

Aside from the source of the wa­ter, the next fron­tier will see wa­ter heav­ily paired with food, and I con­sider my­self the great­est pro­po­nent in that re­gard

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lebanon

© PressReader. All rights reserved.