Up Close With... Icelandic Glacial
November 15, 2008
Icelandic Water Holdings opened the doors of a new bottling facility in Ölfus, Iceland, in September, hoping to bring a taste of Iceland to the rest of the world through its Icelandic Glacial bottled water. The new plant dramatically increases the company’s production capacity and offers environmentally friendly features such as green energy and power-saving devices.
The company celebrated the plant opening with an event that hosted Icelandic government officials, members of the media and representatives from its U.S. distribution partner, Anheuser-Busch. Icelandic Glacial Founder Jon Olafsson said the plant opening was the culmination of four years of growth for the company, which began operating in 2004, as well as an investment for the future of the business.
“Nothing has been spared and we are not in it for the short term,” he said of the plant, which is NSF certified and also carries CarbonNeutral certification from The CarbonNeutral Co.
Bottled at the source
The new 71,688-square-foot facility is located at the source of Icelandic Glacial bottled water, the Ölfus Spring, which the company says is one of the largest in the world. According to the company, the spring covers 200 square miles underneath a protective layer of lava rock, and is fed by a gradual filter of rainfall, snow and ice melt. Icelandic Water Holdings holds the sole commercial rights to bottle and sell water from the Ölfus Spring.
The new Ölfus plant will employ about 40 people. It features two bottling halls, where the prolific spring will feed production of 30,000 bottles of water per hour in 330-ml., 500-ml., 750-ml. and 1-liter sizes. That increases the company’s capacity from just 5,000 bottles per hour in its original facility.
Production at the plant begins with blowmolding machines that blow PET preforms into various-sized bottles. The bottles are then filled, labeled and packed into cases for shipping.
The new facility operates entirely on green power, fueled by the geothermal and hydroelectric power that runs much of Iceland. In fact, more than 70 percent of the country is said to use green energy sources. The bottling plant also uses low-energy, on-demand infrared lighting to reduce its energy requirements.
The new plant is the first CarbonNeutral certified bottled water plant thanks to Icelandic Water Holdings’ affiliation with The CarbonNeutral Co. The company teamed with CarbonNeutral last summer, and now carries the CarbonNeutral logo, which is achieved by having its carbon dioxide emissions assessed and reduction goals identified. The carbon emissions that cannot be prevented are offset through renewable energy projects.
Icelandic Glacial’s green credentials will likely help it combat the increasing pressure by environmentalists on bottled water companies in the United States. For consumers, who still seem more concerned with branding than eco-matters, Icelandic Glacial’s three-dimensional square bottles are one the brand’s stand-out features. The bottle molds have four different neck profiles modeled after the profile of the Vatnajökull glacier in Iceland. In addition, Icelandic Glacial’s labels are randomly applied, giving the brand 16 variations. The result is a shelf profile that the company says makes the likelihood of having six identical bottles in a row one in a million.
Icelandic Glacial is distributed by Anheuser-Busch in the United States, thanks to a two-year partnership between the two companies. A-B took a 20 percent stake in the bottled water company last July.
David English, vice president and general manager for 9th Street Beverages, A-B’s non-alcohol beverage division, noted the success of the companies’ partnership during the plant opening.
“Icelandic Glacial has been a valued partner with Anheuser-Busch for over two years, and during this time, we have worked closely together to establish the Icelandic Glacial brand as one of the premier super-premium waters in the United States. Along with our Anheuser-Busch network of over 600 wholesalers, we’ve laid the foundation for sustainable long-term and profitable growth,” he said. BI