Beverage Industry

Straight From the Source

November 1, 2005

Straight From the Source

Bottled water brings a taste of Iceland to America
In an age of born-on and sell-by dates, it’s unusual to think of old as good. But Iceland Spring bottled water is glacier-sourced water that fell to the earth hundreds of years ago, and its marketers say that makes it some of the purest water on the market, free from the pollutants of the modern world. The water features a low mineral content and the company says it contains some of the lowest recorded levels of undesirable chemicals.
Bottled near Reykjavik, Iceland, Iceland Spring has been available in the United States for more than three years, and has been imported by Pure Distribution U.S. LLC, Orangeburg, N.Y., for the past two years. The company says the brand has become the fourth-largest imported brand in the natural foods and gourmet retail segment, where it does the majority of its business.
“We are improving this distribution on a weekly, if not daily basis, and hope to make it into the top three before the end of next year,” says Eric Skae, managing director at Pure Distribution. “We are also targeting the northern East Coast, in particular New York to Washington, and are now available in many upmarket supermarkets including D’Agostinos, Gristedes, Giant and Food Emporium, to name just a few.”
In Iceland, the water is bottled by a joint venture between Catco, which is a subsidiary of Egils Skallagrimsson, and U.S. company P.U.R.E. Holdings. Egils is both a soft drink and beer company — the second-largest in Iceland and the oldest, having being founded in the late 1800s. Egils bottles Pepsi-Cola and Tuborg beer as well as a variety of local Icelandic soft drinks.
Iceland Spring’s source is located in the center of a 156-acre nature reserve called Heidmörk, near Reykjavik. With security in mind, a 1.5-million-square-meter fenced-off security zone was created within the reserve to prevent unauthorized access to the water source. The company says its source is believed to be the largest fresh water reservoir in Europe.
“Iceland Spring originates in the lava mountains of Iceland high above Heidmörk as pristine rain or snow which fell hundreds of years ago,” says David Lomnitz, director of Iceland Spring. “Filtered through inert layers of lava rock (the world’s best natural filtration system), the already pure water trickles deep into the ground over decades, picking up a minimal amount of soluble minerals, before emerging naturally from our spring.”
The company has rights to four 2,000-meter boreholes located on the reserve, giving it access to water that flows at a rate of 1,500 liters per second. The water is carried through a private stainless-steel pipeline to a dedicated bottling line at the Egils facility. Iceland Spring’s use of the water represents about 10 percent of the spring’s capacity, which is shared with the city of Reykjavik.
Current production at the Egils plant, which has been certified by the International Bottled Water Association, is about 1 million cases per year, with a total capacity of 5 million cases. After passing through a series of filters — 1, 0.5 and 0.22 microns, respectively — the water flows directly into the filling line, with no further processing. It is filled into 0.33-, 0.5-, 1- and 1.5-liter bottles for distribution in a number of markets, including the United States, Japan, Denmark, Kuwait, Thailand, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. BI