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By Karen Lynch, CEO Belu Water Ltd

We hear *80% of diners expect tap water on their table and that consumers are becoming more aware of their environmental responsibilities and rejecting bottled water, so the bottled water market is doomed right?

Well a quick look at UK sales data proves otherwise. The last Zenith Report stated yet another year of year on year growth, +11.5% to be exact. And with a backdrop of increased health awareness, every operator I’m speaking to right now reports a continued boom and growing investment in UK manufacturing.

So there’s a mismatch – in what consumers are saying versus what we see them do.  But how does this affect our sector? And how should the restaurant who focusses on sustainability make decisions on water?

Making good business sense

I believe it’s our job to positively engage and inspire to ‘choose better’. There’s a starting point that needs to respect the reality of not undermining anyone’s restaurant business model through a one size fits all approach.

Whilst not all restaurants choose to use bottled water, many do still heavily rely on sales to pay the rent, the staff – oh and the water rates. In this instance Belu offers the most ethical option. Way before we get to the ‘charity water bit’ the business model kicks in.

All our raw materials and products are made in the UK.  Our ‘core’ clear glass lines are in the lightest bottles available, when we couldn’t find any light ones we launched our own ‘ethical glass brand.

Innovation is key

But our innovation hasn’t stopped there. Zizzi for example have an Italian look version of Belu in green glass. With almost 70% recycled glass content in each bottle, and made in the UK, there’s a significant footprint reduction (** – 36%) versus the previous imported product and an increased positive engagement from diners.

All Belu formats use a minimum of 50% recycled plastic and light – weighted design, a market leading position. And we’re certified carbon neutral to the British Standard PAS2060 – a huge task to deliver but we love that it focuses our business.

This forward planning was a huge part of some of our new initiatives this year. Why would a bottled water company invest profits from sales of bottles in supplying filtration machines without charge? Why not, if there was a way to both reduce footprint and engage consumers in the value of water whist raising funds for WaterAid?  So we did, in several outlets this year including Drake & Morgan at Kings Cross. Or, if you are a pure ‘tap only’ outlet, there’s also a great way to ‘Tap into WaterAid’ – again, raising awareness of the value of water with your customers.

Listen to what customers want

At Belu, without doubt we are structured to be environment champions first and foremost. But we learned very quickly that we needed to listen to the different business models, and not preach.

It’s your business, it’s your water service. Whether you choose mineral, filter or tap, or a combination of all three, I’d suggest we listen and observe consumers in making that choice. Wherever you end up, I hope the refreshing point is that at Belu we are happy with all three, and work with you to figure out what’s best for your business.

*– http://waitrose.pressarea.com/pressrelease/details/78/PRODUCT%20NEWS_12/6047

**–see Zizzi footprint report