“Reaching and winning consumers with a disruptive brand: FloWater’s plan to eliminate the plastic water bottle”

Seth:

We’re here with Rich “Raz” Razgaitis, CEO of FloWater in Denver, Colorado to take a look at their mission to disrupt the plastic bottle with better tasting, electrolyte-rich water through their unique Coconut-based filtration process.

“Raz” (Rich) Razgaitis, thanks for joining us today!

“Raz” (Rich) Razgaitis:

Hi Seth! Great to be here, thanks for having me on the interview.

Seth:

It’s a big mission, and one so many folks are deeply passionate about. Tell us how the FloWater journey began, and where you found your first fans.

Raz:

FloWater started largely to address the issue of plastics–specifically single use plastic water bottles, which are not only polluting the environment but also our bodies (over 90% of bottled and tap water contains microplastics that we’re ingesting regularly). FloWater keeps plastics from entering the environment, and filters out micro plastics in water as well. Beyond that, though, there was a focus to bring consumers to “fall in love with tap water again” while also getting them more hydrated. Over 70% of Americans are chronically dehydrated–and kids are getting filled with sugary, carbonated substitute products at alarming levels. Essentially, wellness was a second prong. And for decades, very little innovation occurred with water hardware devices (water fountains, five gallon jugs, and water coolers are all relatively unchanged over decades). So we saw a big void with consumer need and future shifting behavior with this mega-trend away from plastic, and we believed we could solve it.

Our first fans and early adopters were largely in Universities, High Schools, and Fitness Centers–but since then it’s expanded considerably and we now are rapidly growing with a focus on five primary verticals: hotels, schools, corporations, fitness, and retail. Beyond that, we also do quite a bit of event business, close to 100 big events a year–including music (e.g. Coachella), fashion (e.g. BeautyCon), and fitness (e.g. annual CrossFit Games) events.

Seth:

Fast-forward to today, and FloWater is a trusted partner to man of the biggest brands in the world; including many of our forward-thinking members and partners like Red Bull, Google, and Live Nation Entertainment. It’s no secret that great taste is much of the “secret sauce,” but just how positive is the taste feedback you get from customers/fans?

Raz:

It’s pretty amazing, and though I know I’m biased the proof ends up being in both qualitative feedback and hard numbers. 

One of the taglines we adopted was “The World’s Best Tasting Water”, and while I wish we could take credit for this it actually germinated completely from customer feedback. 

When we would spend time in the field, reading email comments, talking with consumers and businesses, we would consistently hear this statement as their summary of what the loved most about FloWater–so we adopted it. 

From a metrics perspective, our results have been powerful. 90% of locations that conduct a free trial of a FloWater Refill Stations end up becoming a customer–and after they’re customers, we have an attrition rate of ~2%.

So net net, when they try it they love it and become a customer. And when they get it, they keep it.

Beyond those metrics, what I get most excited about is outcomes data–because what we’re really trying to accomplish is consumer behavior change AND to drive brand preference with a superior product that people love more than bottled water.

When we install a FloWater Refill Station, the consumer outcomes we see are: a > 50% reduction in soda and coffee consumption, a 2-5x increase in daily water hydration, and ~80% reduction in single use plastic water bottles (and in quite a few cases, a complete elimination of single use plastics).

Seth:

Can you tell us a little more about the unique filtration process that makes this all possible?

Raz:

FloWater uses a 7x (seven stages) Advanced Purification System. This can be summarized as it does one of three things: 

1. Removes impurities from tap water, such as: pharmaceuticals, herbicides/pesticides (like glyphosate, found in RoundUp), heavy metals, sediment, and chlorine. 

2. Enhances and vitalizes tap water, with: electrolytes (sodium, calcium, potassium, and magnesium), oxygenation, and a blend of minerals that increases the alkalinity of FloWater by up to 1.5 on the pH scale. 

3. Creates a water that tastes better than the most premium brands of bottled water, using a Coconut Carbon filter that gives a taste that–in our blinded taste tests–8 out of 10 consumers prefer to Fiji. 

What all this really translates to is that, from any potable water source anywhere in the world, a FloWater system can take tap-water and remove up to 99.9% of the impurities and turn it into your new favorite water that tastes the same every single time and location–regardless of the tap water source. When consumers have brand preference, behaviors change. 

The goal was, create a product consumers love MORE than bottled water–through that we can eliminate single use plastic bottles, increase wellness outcomes, and create change.

Seth:

So the process results in an electrolyte-rich water…what does that actually mean for consumers, and are your business/event/gym/hotel customers seeing any measurable impact of this? What about on employee/attendee/customer plastic water bottle consumption levels?

Raz:

Some of the stats I already mentioned, of course, but I’ll add a bit more color on this.

To-date, we’ve saved over 125 million single use plastic water bottles from entering the environment–and we’re on track to save over ONE billion single use plastic water bottles by the year 2022.

The end-goal is “un-cycling”, or in other words keeping packaging from entering the ecosystem altogether (even with recyclable plastic, the recycling statistics are abysmal). We’re seeing this impact firsthand in the reduction of single use waste, which is great.

As I mentioned before, we’re also seeing consumers drink dramatically more water once we deploy a FloWater Refill Station (even if there were multiple water sources / options available previously). Eliminating dehydration is a serious boost to human performance, productivity, and health outcomes.

Depending on the customer or use case, we’re also seeing additional hard and soft metrics that drive customers specific objectives.

For example, when we put FloWater into a Retail store (like with one of our partners, Urban Remedy), FloWater will help drive foot traffic into the store, dwell time, and and same store sales–while also being a perk to employees/customers.

Seth:

It’s been a lot of fun looking at such a great solution to such an important issue – and we like to leave by looking ahead. Tell me where you realistically believe single-use water bottle levels can be in 5 and 10 years from now?

Raz:

Well, before I give a prediction–first some quick context behind the basis of my conviction.

Over the last few years, a few things have become indisputable as a force for this change:

1. Consumer sentiment / socialization: Single use water bottles are the new environmental cigarette. Just as smoking was “cool” in the 60’s and is now generally seen as a socially unacceptable habit (at best), we’re seeing the same thing unfold with single use plastic water bottles.

2. Environmental degradation: It’s clear there is now a mega-trend away from single use plastics due to the indisputable and extreme environmental waste and destruction single use water bottles are causing.

3. Health risks with micro plastics: Not only are we polluting our environment with these single use plastic water bottles but we’re also polluting ourselves.

We are now, literally, drinking our plastic.

All of this paves the way for significant change based on these and other dynamics.

There’s a caveat, though, which is that we can’t just drive consumers back to a faucet. We don’t have a problem, at least in the U.S., called “if only I could find a water faucet” that’s causing consumers to reach for bottled water.

It is largely (not exclusively) an issue with the fact that the majority of consumers don’t like, or trust, their unfiltered and/or unpurified tap water.

If we, and others, can change that at scale we can dramatically change the consumption habits of consumers–to the tune of many many billions of bottles saved per year from entering our environment and our bodies.

I believe we’ll see a greater-than 50% reduction in single use plastics worldwide in the next 5-10 years–with an even higher ratio here in the U.S.

Smoking rates are another great parallel here–fifty years ago smoking rates were well over 40% of Americans, and now it’s in the teens and still dropping.

The same thing will happen with single use packaged water–only on a radically accelerated timeline, much much faster than happened with cigarettes.

The market is already demonstrating this mega-shift at an incredible pace.

Seth:

Raz, thank you so much for joining us today and for sharing your incredible mission! We wish you all the best as this category continues to evolve.

Raz:

Thanks Seth, really appreciate for the opportunity.

I’ll end by extending a final note of acknowledgment and gratitude for all those consumers, environmental advocates, and businesses/schools/organizations who are the driving force behind this movement and change for good.

Best, Raz

For questions or comments please visit: 

https://www.linkedin.com/posts/seth-hillstrom-70802025_ebev-sustainability-marketing-activity-6568159453047255040-DMN3/

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