Nicholas Reichenbach is the CEO and Founder of Flow, a company producing sustainable bottled water with naturally occurring alkaline. He speaks with Alistair Crane about building a positive brand geared toward hydrating the next generation of consumers.
This article was originally published in Luxury Briefing 216.
What was the initial thinking behind Flow?
For generations, my family has had a large artesian spring where I grew up in South Bruce County, Ontario. When I was living in San Francisco, I attended the Burning Man festival in the desert. Seeing the mountain of plastic water bottles that had to be removed afterwards, I was inspired to create the first socially responsible, fully sustainable water company using renewable-resource, biodegradable packaging.
I contacted [food packaging manufacturer] Tetra Pak and asked if anyone had ever put still mineral water in their Tetra Prisma aseptic package. To my surprise, no one had, and that’s when the partnership formed. We released the first still mineral water in Tetra Pak in 2015.
How has your previous professional experience informed the work that you do now?
I’ve always been in the consumer products business and I’d say Flow is the net-sum of all my business experience. I used to be a concert promoter at live events; in my 20s, I was the distributor for Red Bull in Canada and so the 1990s was when I acquired the knowledge I needed to launch a brand. In the 2000s, I began selling digital products and creating ringtones and video games for digital and social platforms. That led to my last project, which was a video chat platform. After selling it, I was poised for something new and that was when Flow came into the picture!
What does sustainability mean to you?
For me, sustainability means moving towards a renewable world where our actions leave a positive ripple effect on the environment, not a negative one. Flow is a B-Corp-certified company and we consider the impact of our choices at every step of the way – from the green power that runs our plant to 100 per cent recyclable and +/- 68 per cent renewable paperboard packaging.
How do you want your consumers to feel when they drink and interact with your brand and how do you communicate this to your audience?
We are a very positive brand; our mantra holds mindful positivity at its core. Every drop of Flow is created to release a positive feeling into the body: from deliciously drinkable organic-certified flavours to sustainable packaging. At Flow, we want our customers to feel as positive as we are about the world, society and the community around us.
You recently partnered with Gwyneth Paltrow, do you have any other partnerships in the pipeline and who would be your dream collaborator if so?
Gwyneth IS the dream collaborator! Her lifestyle brand Goop is an amazing partner for us as all of our company values align and I greatly respect the business she has built. We also have a lot of other great influential fans who have become great assets to the Flow community. We will be working with them to help tell the Flow story over the coming months.
Can you explain the benefits of your Tetra Pak packaging?
Instead of using plastic and glass, Tetra Pak uses paperboard sourced from FSC-certified trees to be able to construct packaging that is +/- 68 per cent renewable and 100 per cent recyclable. They also use a plant-based sugar cane cap instead of plastic. We work closely with their team to continue to innovate the package with the goal of being 100 per cent renewable in the near future.
How do you ensure that Flow’s brand ethos stands out from other water brands?
Once you try Flow, you realise that not all water is created equal. The minerals that provide Flow’s natural alkalinity and electrolytes also provide its pure and smooth taste. Of our five million customers across North America, most buy Flow because it’s an amazing tasting mineral water, which holds naturally occurring alkaline minerals. The rest of our consumers purchase Flow because of its eco-friendly packaging.
For us, the Flow brand is the product and the product is the Flow brand, therefore we want to make sure the product is of the highest quality and is produced naturally, not industrially. The organic lifestyle that promotes eating clean, healthy choices, and protecting the planet is resonating with consumers and I’m so pleased Flow is part of this growing philosophy.
What changes do you anticipate seeing in the consumer market over the next 12 months?
There are two big shifts. The move to health and wellness means consumers are migrating to low or no sugar in beverages. Water is the number one beverage in the category of non-sugar, ready-to-drink. And within that category, the enhanced nature – natural or artificial – of functional benefits into water has grown by double digits every year.
Secondly, within the enhanced-water category, the fastest-growing trend in North America is alkaline water. Consumers are now looking for naturally occurring alkaline waters. Flow has among the highest naturally occurring quantity of minerals including bicarbonates, which contribute to the natural alkalinity, and we’re the first company in the world to infuse organic-certified flavours into alkaline water. That’s why 54 per cent of our consumers reach for Flow. They stay loyal because of the delicious taste and because it’s in a non-plastic container.
What is the best lesson you have learnt since launching Flow?
It sounds pretty obvious, but I’ve learnt to drink three litres of water a day! Before starting Flow, I had no idea about the importance of drinking between two to three litres of water a day and how staying properly hydrated can make you feel so good. It’s so important to flush toxins out of your body and natural mineral water is the greatest agent to do that.