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How A Michigan Startup Is Disrupting The $60B Bottled Water Industry

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How A Michigan Startup Is Disrupting The $60B Bottled Water Industry

Boxed Water Is Better, a sustainable packaged water alternative available nationwide and online, released a life cycle study conducted by Anthesis Group on Oct. 27 that compares the environmental impacts of plastic, aluminum and Boxed Water containers.

The production and consumption of traditional plastic and aluminum water bottles has tremendous consequences for the environment, according to Boxed Water CMO Robert Koenen.

Boxed Water, a Michigan-based firm co-founded in 2009 by Benjamin Gott, provides a better alternative, Koenen told Benzinga. The company is best known for its purified water in 92% plant-based sustainable packaging.

“10 years ago, this company was founded by a couple of millennials who saw plastic everywhere, and they thought there must be a better way,” the CMO said. 

“So, we’re taking on big soda because they’re the ones producing up to 69 billion bottles every year right now, 90% of which go to landfills or oceans.”

Conduit For Change

Boxed Water’s primary solution is a BPA-free, FSC-certified paper water bottle with a 64% lower carbon footprint makes for easy recycling and less harm to the environment.

The bottles, which come in varying sizes, boast plant-based caps created from the waste byproduct of newspapers and Kleenex. The company sources its water through proprietary purification methods.

“There’s a zero footprint to what we’re doing,” Koenen said. “We just switched over to the plant-based cap. We now have more sustainable content in our pack than any other sustainable brand out there.”

The company, through a program called You Post, We Plant, plants two trees in a national forest for every time it sees a picture of its product posted on social media.

“This year we had a million trees working with the National Forest Foundation,” Koenen said. “We’re a conduit that empowers consumers to make change beyond just choosing paper over plastic.”

Recent Events

After mixed results selling to grocery stores, Boxed Water found a better strategy to sell its product, the CMO said: go directly to the consumer and partner with like-minded companies.

“You’ll find us in a lot of colleges across the country, the fashion industry ... and hotels, because they’re interested in helping the planet and water is not their main profit driver. It’s an easy way for them to help the planet without affecting their profitability.”

Other partner organizations include Amazon Inc (NASDAQ: AMZN)-owned Whole Foods and CVS Health Corp (NYSE: CVS), among others, all of which realized consumers are demanding alternatives to plastic and aluminum, Koenen said. 

“Our early adopters were the local coffee shops, the mom and pop stores,” the CMO said. “The bigger corporations are just starting to pick us, so the best is yet to come.”

As part of the company’s vision to address emerging demands for sustainability and helping the planet, Boxed Water sought to drive the narrative, as well as expand product assortment and distribution, he said. 

“We went to an outside agency and we had them study our process from cradle to grave,” Koenen said. “We were blown away at how much better a carton is.”

According to the company, unlike the resources found in plastic and aluminum bottles, trees can be replanted, reducing ozone depletion by 95%, he said. 

“You need to strip, mine, and remove this mineral called bauxite. It takes two tons of bauxite broken down to make 1 ton of aluminum, which has [yet] to be smelted, rolled, cleaned, transported, and then formed, causing tremendous pollution.”

With Boxed Water, Anthesis’ study suggests cartons have a 36% lower carbon footprint, 43% less fossil fuel use, and 95% lower impact on ozone.

“I think consumers are now smart enough, and we’re proving that empowering them is a much better way to grow a brand than manipulating them. Today’s consumers — the millennials in their 30s who are sick of being marketed to — want to vote with their dollars.”

Innovation Outlook

Tremendous interest in sustainable water bottles has lead to new competition for Boxed Water.

“Competition validates the fact that we have a strong category, so we welcome it,” Koenen said.

“This is a $60-billion industry in this country alone, and we have yet to begin to even scratch the surface of how big we can be.”

Going forward, Boxed Water will leverage its early start, know-how, and unique marketing methods to communicate and sell sustainable water, he said.

“From a financial standpoint, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo — they own Dasani and Aquafina — have a war chest of over $8 billion in marketing. We’ve been growing by leaps and bounds with not even one one-hundredth of that sort of money behind us,” the CMO said.

“We’re just the scrappy little company in Grand Rapids, Michigan trying to disrupt an industry.” 

 

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