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Origin Natural Mineral Water Factory is located in Oromia region, Alemgena town along the Addis Butajira road. The company that has been producing bottled mineral water for the last 10 years has now re-launched with a few changes based on studies and market feedback.
The company is also working closely with Schulze Global Investments, which acquired a minority share of Origin mineral water. With its new product now on the market, the company hopes to gain a substantial amount of the bottled water market share and it is confident that will happen.
Capital spoke to Amare Wossen, CEO of Origin Investment PLC about the company’s relaunched product and its future plans.
Capital: What is new about your product?
Amare Wossen: We re-launched Origin with a new taste and new packaging. The reason we did this is because the feedback we got from the market required us to make certain changes. We carried out a study that had the participation of around 2,500 people for the tasting the product and from the feedback, we changed some of the feature of the product to fit consumers’ requirement.
Some of the feedback we got was that the taste of the water was a bit heavy, other findings showed that people’s perspective to the way the product was packaged wasn’t always positive. The study we carried out took us a year and a half, we wanted to listen to what the market demanded carefully.
When we started Origin, one of the main things has been and continues to be that we don’t compromise on quality. It was to continue with this motto we have kept supplying the market with our bottled water that has a high content of minerals which are good for the body. It was the high mineral content that made the water taste different. Now, we have adjusted the taste without compromising the mineral content.
So we brought on board a new machine that would enable us to provide the same quality product without compromising its mineral content. This means that now Origin still maintains its mineral content and its certified mineral water status but it now has a lighter taste.
Our biggest assets remains quality, we are very careful and that is what we sell.
Capital: Origin has been on the market for ten years, why then did it take the company a long time to change its product? Didn’t it lose a lot of money?
Amare: We stood by our product; we knew that our product was as good as other well known mineral waters in the world. Just as we need minerals from our food, it should be the same for water. So when we brought the high mineral content water to the market, it was because we knew it was good.
The way it is done in this country is that the minerals are withdrawn from the water so that the taste of the water is not heavy. That is what we see in the market and that is what consumers want.
We tried to continue with our initial product because we had some segment of the population that also accepted it, but we also paid a price for that. That is why we decided to rethink the product and bring it back still having minerals but with a taste consumers are accustomed to.
Capital: There are different standards on water that the Standards Agency puts forward, but there seems to always be some issues with that as we sometimes see products on the market that have not met the standards that are set, what do you say about that?
Amare: Now the way it is done is that before factories start production and after, in different phases, studies are done. Based on that, after the water has been tested, it will be certified. I think the Standard Agency’s capacity is also growing so the issues surrounding standards are getting better.
Capital: When it comes to consumers, there isn’t a lot of awareness on the difference between bottled water and mineral water. Have you tried to address this information gap?
Amare: Throughout the ten years we have been producing, we had aligned all our activities including advertisements with the fact that mineral water is important for people. We were the only water company that stuck to the facts on how important mineral water is.
So through radio or TV, or whenever people visited our bottling facility, that is what we were trying to promote. We hope that in the future other institutions will also study this and carry out awareness creation activities. On our part, we will not stop promoting the importance of mineral water, we will continue to push on that and provide a nutritious product for our consumers.
Capital: Now that your new product has hit the market, have you faced any challenges so far? How are you trying to recapture market share?
Amare: Well, it has only been a week since our product has been on the market with a new look and taste. So far it has been really good; well received by consumers.
If you look at bottle water such as Evian, there TDS or mineral content reaches over 300 which is very high, so there were people, embassies and other organizations that are accustomed to that high mineral content and taste, it might be different for them now.
Capital: If you have fairly large consumers of the old product, wouldn’t you still be to produce it along with the new version? Why not have two products on the market?
Amare: That creates confusion for the people; we need to stick to one product and sell only that. That is what we are planning to do.
Capital: What are your future plans?
Amare: Well, by looking at the market demand, we might look into expansion and diversification of products in the future. We are also finishing some processes to start exporting our mineral water to neighboring countries such as Djibouti and Kenya. Especially taking into consideration the railway that goes to Djibouti, we are excited to venture into export soon.