India

Relish the Pristine

<br>To create awareness, as per UN declaration World Water Day is held annually on 22 March as a means of focusing attention on importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

One of the biggest primary users of plastic is the FMCG sector, especially the food/drinks/beverage and the packaging industry. And no wonder, the most common form of plastic usage is in the form of a good old bottle of water.

This is where Veen stands apart and is trying to take a step ahead to sustatainable sourcing of water in the packaged water segment. The Finland-based brand sources its water from remote and unpolluted areas of Finnish Lapland and Bhutan.

Spearheaded by Ganesh Iyer, Director operations India & Indian Subcontinent, Veen sets itself apart from other players in the market terms of it's sustainable packaging. It comes in premium, recyclable bottle is made of extra flint crystal clear glass. We caught up with Iyer, also country's first and only Water Sommelier talks more on this. Excerpts:

Is there any gold standard for “drinking water”? What should one look for while choosing drinking water for daily use?

Iyer: Ideally in the world of a water sommelier, a gold standard for drinking water would be any natural mineral water that is bottled in premium glass packaging. When it comes to water for the day to day consumption in my opinion for the man on the street the best water to drink from a hygiene and safety parameter is boiled water.

<br>What is the difference between a packaged/bottled water and natural mineral water?

Iyer: Natural mineral water which is bottled at the pristine source ( and not processed in any form) maintains its neutrality, virginality, pH level, and the overall Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) when served in a premium glass packaging and therefore acts as a perfect accompaniment to a finely curated meal and in doing so one gets a complete fine dine experience.

In comparison, packaged drinking water served in PET packaging is just purified water devoid of any natural minerals and therefore does nothing to enhance the fine dining experience.<br> <br>How Veen sets itself apart from other players in the premium packaged water segment?

Iyer: Without water there would be no wines. You wouldn't you be sipping your favourite single malt or brewing your relaxing cupper neither. Similar to growing different grape varieties in different regions and vineyards, VEEN has found multiple unique natural spring sources where it produces distinctive bottled water products of individual characteristics.

Finnish Lapland is Veen's place of origin and the home of its first spring source. The brand discovered its second home in 2014, the source of its natural mineral water spring in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, a carbon negative nation.<br> <br>Veen's water sources are among the purest waters and environments on the planet. Our sources are exceptionally rare in characteristic, in that they are in extremely remote, unpopulated and unpolluted parts of the world. Additionally, the sources are no less than superior in virginal which means the water is unspoiled by nitrate with 0mg per litre.<br> <br>Who is the target segment of Veen in India… has it diversified since it's inception in 2012?

Iyer: VEEN essentially operates in the B2B segment wherein our customers are hotels, restaurants, cafes, premium caterers, and HNIs and it continues to grow. A nascent addition to this list has been close to 70-80 corporate houses on a pan India basis who are going green as a part of the Anti Plastic Campaign and have now become our loyal customers. To name a few, we have Reliance Industries, Mahindra & Mahindra, ACC, Sterling Holidays, Rahejas, Wipro, Anand Automotive, Hero Motors etc.<br> <br>Q: How has the price-sensitive Indian market responded to your product?

Iyer: Contrary to popular belief and perception, in the B2B space that we operate, we would not rate India as a price sensitive market, because most of the products in the non alcobev space that are available aren't upto international standards both in terms of presentation and quality offered and therefore its a bit unfair to say that we are in a price-sensitive market. Yes, there are pockets in parts of India which could be price sensitive but that's still in a relative context to what is being offered as an option.

The 3 pillars that define VEEN are ( A ) Award Winning Finnish Design Glass Bottles( B) Bottled at the World first and Only Carbon Negative Country- Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan ( C) Premium Quality Glass Packaging as denoted by Flint Type-III. These are many firsts which till date only VEEN has to its credit, and these are the firsts that are patronized by our marquee customers being it a Taj, Hyatt, Accor, IHG, ITC and many such brands.

Since it's foray into the Indian market, how has business has expanded in India and subcontinent market? (elucidate on the topline and bottom-line growth, future forecasts)

Iyer: As a natural mineral water brand that has been in business in India for the past 7 years with focus being HORECA ( Hotels Restaurants, Cafes 7 Caterers) having footprints in 40 plus cities in the country, the brand has witnessed a CAGR of 38-40% Y-O-Y since inception and we see this trend continuing for the next two years.

<br>What are the fun ways we can pair Veen water to other gastronomic experience?

Iyer: Across the globe, there are quite a few culinary hotspots/restaurants that have taken that leap of fine dine experience so much so that they have a water menu which essentially lists down the characteristics of the different types of natural mineral waters and sparkling waters and their pairing with foods which either complements or have a contrast to the texture of the said dish that's being served.

So for eg, a barbeque dish can be best relished with either a standard natural mineral water which has a good amount of TDS or sparkling water which has heavy bubbles. Likewise, a seafood salad or sushi is best paired with a sparkling water that is low on the carbonation so to ensure that the relative the rawness of the dish is maintained without the carbonation overpowering it. Likewise, a fresh block of cheese is best enjoyed with waters which have high levels of bicarbonate.<br> <br>How VEEN is committed to protect and conserve the water climate?

Iyer: VEEN is bottled in a water surplus nation- i.e the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. Just as Finland is known as the country of Lakes, Bhutan is considered as a country of spring waters and therefore spring sources are available in bountiful.

(Aditi Roy can be contacted at [email protected])

–IANS<br>adr/tb/

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