Spa Springs plant selling to niche market
Gunter Gottschalk, operations manager.
By Heather Killen
Spa Springs Mineral Water Company Ltd. is bubbling with possibility again.
The bottling plant has reopened with a fresh marketing team, four new flavour twists, and an upgraded facility. The water that made Spa Springs famous is being bottled as Gize, (as in energize), and is being introduced this spring to select German markets.
Long before the Europeans came to the area, the Mi’kmaq sought out the mineral spring for its healing powers often using the mud to cure skin wounds. In the 19th century, Spa Springs became known as a famous bath resort, attracting notables such as Samuel Cunard, Joseph Howe, the Earl and Countess of Mulgrave, and even King George V.
Carbon dating done in 1987 estimated that the water is probably 3,000 years old. This is about the amount of time it has taken the water to filter through the layers of rock on the North Mountain and collect on the surface. Essential minerals are naturally dissolved in the water during this filtering process.
“It’s hard to imagine, but that’s the way the water travels,” says Werner Theil, president of Spa Springs Mineral Water Company. In 1986 a bottling plant was built near the spring that shipped the water to international markets.
Theil added that while the product has always been first rate, previous marketing attempts didn’t always do it justice and the plant eventually shut down for seven years.
Gunter Gottschalk, operations manager, said Germany is an ideal market for their product test run as it offers a huge market in a relatively small geographical space. And even better, Germans know their water.
“Germany has a very strong mineral water culture and one of the highest consumption of mineral water per capita in the world,” he said. “People there drink an average of 140 liters a year.”
Tap water isn’t considered good for drinking and most people will order bottled drinking water at restaurants. Gize, available in four flavours, has already been sent to test markets at premium restaurants, hotels, bars and clubs in Germany.
“People are moving away from carbonated drinks and towards flavoured mineral water,” he added.
Werner Theil said the company is not planning to pit its product against mass marketed bottled waters and is not likely to use mainstream distributers. The water will be sold in a few premium venues to a select market.
Gize has a sleek look that features a glass bottle. A Canadian maple leaf is prominently displayed capitalizing on our nation’s wholesome reputation and its natural beauty. While they haven’t set a price yet, they note a premium U.S. export retails at 20 Euro, almost $30 Canadian.
If all goes well, they expect to begin selling the water in mid-May and do a second production run in July. In the meantime, the company is going in a new direction and the bottling plant is undergoing a transition phase according to Theil.
In the future, they hope to begin working through a sister company to market the product to select U.S. markets and eventually here at home.
The company is partnering with two well-established German companies to modernize both its product and facility. The first company is supplying the unique natural flavours, while the second company provides the modernized equipment to upgrade the production.
The company currently has seven full-time employees and four to five part-time employees. Theil expects when the plant is fully operational, it will employ about 12 people and as business grows, so will the company pay roll.
The company is also sub-contracting to more than 30 local companies and service suppliers in the region who are providing an excellent support in the daily operations of the plant according to Gottschalk.