The Burgeoning Water Industry

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Raheem Akingbolu writes that with the growing number of bottled water makers in Nigeria, the regulatory authorities should redouble their efforts to ensure the market is not flooded with substandard products

As the world’s population continues to grow at an alarming rate, with many consumers returning to natural drinks to stem the fear of consuming adulterated drinks, water has suddenly become the most consumed drinks globally. To fill the vacuum in Nigeria, international manufacturers and beverages companies like Coca Cola, 7up; UAC and Nestle have successfully opened up the market to give consumers quality water.

Until recently, the leading brands in the local markets were Swan and Ragolis but the trend has since changed. Today, aside the market giants like Coca Cola’s Eva, 7up’s Aquafina and UAC’s Gossy, there are over hundred water brands in the market with each of them jostling for a sizeable share of the market. However, recent findings have revealed that most of the table water brands are threat to healthy living because of their unhygienic method of production. As a result of this, concerned Nigerians have consistently appealed to regulators like the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the Consumers Protection Council (CPC) to be proactive in the regulation of the industry, to save consumers from consuming substandard products.

Market size

According to NAFDAC, estimations on water consumed in Nigeria daily, ranging from bottle water to pure water is about N8 billion. The former Director General of the agency, Dr. Paul Orhii, who recently revealed this at a forum organised by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), admitted that water is fast growing business in the country.

Aside the fact that there is an existing markets for the bottled water in Nigeria, records have shown that a well purified and packaged water are exportable to some part of Europe, some African countries and America.

“Each bottle water cost N50 at the minimum, with the population of Nigeria which is over 167 million people, 100 million Nigerians take one bottle water per day, am not counting water used during parties, am not counting those who brush their teeth or wash their hands with bottle water, am counting those who drink a bottle per day, to satisfy their thirst.

“When you multiply N50 with 100 million, it is about five billion. Then the sachet water, called pure water, 167 million Nigerians are taking it, it constitutes about N3 million.”

Speaking on registration of products, Orhii had stated that the agency was stringent about requirement. But despite NAFDAC’s position, many still wonder how mushroom companies, without address get their products into the market.

Production process

Recent experiences of global financial meltdown, the dwindling oil revenue and high unemployment rate have necessitated the rush towards devising various money making ventures in the country. It is believed that establishment of small-scale industries will be one of the many ways of creating job and income opportunities. Being a universal consumable requires by every living human every day, many believe that access to water is the only major thing needed to set up a cottage company. This is where some companies are getting it wrong and consumers are paying dearly for it.

A Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry at the Ekiti State University, Dr. Akeem Azeez said at a forum in Ado Ekiti recently that the need for good quality drinking water packaged under very stringent hygienic condition cannot be over emphasised.

“When one considers the costly effect of water borne diseases like diarrhea, typhoid fever and cholera, it becomes paramount to go for clean water,” he said.

Driving home, his point, Azeez urged manufacturers of water in the country to invest well in innovative purification and packaging of colourless and tasteless drinking water, adding that pure potable water is essential for healthy living to avoid dehydration and eventual death.

Beyond having access to water sources, the university don recommended that prospective investor must have a decent building in a clean environment, delivery van and good treatment facility before approaching NAFDAC for approval.

Market segment and top players

Through pricing and packaging, most brands in the market have tactically identified their target audience in the market. Again, while top brands in the market have a national and wide spread, some operate in their localities. Another deviation is the fact that some premium brands appeal to the elite and the corporate Nigeria while some are manufactured for the masses, who could access them in traffic or at the kiosks in their environment. In most cases, brands in this category hardly extend beyond their location. Sylvester Omale, who hawks drinks in Maryland area of Lagos, told THISDAY during the week that the factory that supplies him and his other colleagues in the axis, bottled water is located in Maryland area and it gives them incentive to be able to sell. He also stated that they don’t patronise some brands because of price.

“We have a few factories around that supply us water and in most cases, they ice it for us to appeal to consumers. The last six months have been extremely good because of the dry season which encourages more people to buy. We don’t sell brands like Gossy, Eva or Aqua Dana because of price and strict process required before getting them directly from the manufacturers,”

He however pointed out that some local manufacturers take quality and health of consumers serious while some are careless about it. According to the College of Education, Oju, Benue State graduate, he and his colleagues had in January stooped patronising a particular manufacturer because of his nonchalant attitude towards hygiene.

Eva: A Coca Cola product, Eva came into the Nigerian market at a time when only 2 major bottled water; Swan and Ragolis, dominated the market. Over the years, the water has managed to survive and becomes one of the major players. Among other factors, the fact that it comes from the stable of Coca Cola with good market network, delivery fans and chain of distributors have helped its growth and acceptability. As a premium brand, Eva appeals more to the upper class of the market.

Aquafina: From the stable of 7up Nigeria, Aquafina also enjoys what Eva enjoys in the market; good heritage and wide coverage. As Pepsi is giving Coke a run for its money, so the water brand is seriously challenging Eva. It is also a premium brand for the upper class and corporate Nigeria.

Gossy Water: Warm Spring Waters Nigeria Limited, the manufacturers of Gossy Water is a joint venture company of UAC of Nigeria Plc, Ekiti State Government, Ikogosi-Ekiti Community and some industrialists of Ekiti State. The company has been engaged in the bottling and distribution of GOSSY Natural Spring Water since 2003 and has ride on the success of UAC to penetrate the market. Gossy Natural Spring Water is sourced from the only Warm Spring in Nigeria – the rocks of Ikogosi, Ekiti State – and passes through layers of rocks which naturally filter the water, preserving its naturalness. Many consumers go for the brand because of its link with the Ikogosi natural warm spring.

Valmont: Giant Beverages Ltd is a new entrant into the Nigerian Market. The company commenced operation about two years ago with production of Valmont water at Ikorodu area of Lagos. To carve its own niche in the market, handlers of the brand, had, from day one, gone for a unique packaging and expansive factory of international standard. Its sport cap and red colour is unrivalled in the market.

Recently in Lagos, the company unveiled a set of beverage products to further explore the market. As a local brand that is working towards competing with the giant of the industry, pundits have advised the company to be consistent in its production and marketing process.

Lasena: Obviously the first Artesian water in Nigeria and the first known premium pumpless well, with a natural temperature of 70 degree Celsius in this part of the world. Located on the Lagos end of the Lagos- Ibadan express road, the well has a flow of 70,000 litres per hour. Like Gossy, its strength lies in its connection with nature and this is daily attracting many patrons, who see it as being medicinal.

The first known Artesian water is the Zamzam well in Saudi Arabia, discovered around 1417BC. Some Catholic missionaries sank the second from Rome over 1126 AD in a small town called Artois in France from which the word Artesian was coined.

They decided to sink a well to cater for their water needs as well as for the community. Having sunk pipes into the earth they struck an aquifer that allows water to rise to the surface with very high natural pressure. It was an interesting finding that water from the well in its natural state has healing powers.

From 1126Ad till date, about 15 of such premium water wells have been discovered in different parts of the world. Studies have shown that drinking antioxidant-rich alkaline mineral water from Artesian well improves health, supercharges immune system, and fight the aging process.

In a recent interview with THISDAY, the Managing Director of Oak Group Limited, makers of Lasena Artesian Water, Mr. Lance Musa Elakama, said Lasena Artesian Water which has been validated by National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to be rich in antioxidants, has a high potential Hydrogen (pH) value of 7.8, zero microbes and flows out continuously under pressure at temperature of 70 degree Celsius.

“It was discovered by luck and that is why I said it was a gift. Gift because that was the fourth borehole after three attempts at getting water had failed. We were looking for water to process as a small cottage industry: refine it, process it, bottle it and sell. But after three attempts, there was no water and I gave up about water and went to producing plastic bottles and caps for other bottling companies. After about nine months, with the help of a Turkish hydro engineer, we were able to strike water when and where we did not expect. We were not looking for it anyway and so we did not expect. It was nature’s gift to man because we now found out that it was not like other water,” he said.

Aquadana: Another leading brand in the water market, Aquadana is produced in Ibadan, Oyo State capital. It belongs to the same class with Eva, Gossy and Nestle water and has since inception been consistent in quality and market expansion.