Mon | Feb 19, 2018

Wisynco to export more WATA

Published:Wednesday | December 27, 2017 | 12:00 AMAvia Collinder
Chairman of Wisynco Group, William Mahfood.
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Wisynco Group Limited is looking to export more purified water and will be introducing two production lines within a few months to double volume output as the market expands.

Wisynco Chairman William Mahfood says purified water appears to have exceeded the market for carbonated soft drink in Jamaica, the growth of which has been fuelled by health-conscious consumers.

"I think the entire market for bottled water is growing due to promotion by us of the health benefits as well as consumer preferences," he told Gleaner Business.

Wisynco produces around six million cases of purified water annually, but plans to double output to 12 million cases. The distribution and manufacturing company has also set a goal of doubling water exports from five per cent of current output to 10 per cent.

Wisynco is now operating from larger facilities, having unveiled a new plant in September which replaces an older facility destroyed by fire last year an investment of US$20 million (J$2.6 billion). The expenditure included the two water lines, which Mahfood said accounted for just over $1 billion of the project cost.

The company manufactures several of beverages, including its own soft drink brand Bigga, and water and flavoured water under the WATA label. Wisynco is also a bottler for Coca-Cola and distributor of juices made by joint-venture partner Trade Winds Citrus.

Mahfood said a recent survey showed WATA as the dominant product in both the purified and spring water categories, with around 60 per cent share, and that Wisynco's sales figures internally show double-digit growth annually, with the 600ml bottle being the best seller.

But as to the size of the turnover within the overall market: "I am not sure I can estimate the value for the market, other than to say it could be in excess of the carbonated soft drink market in volume," the Wisynco chairman said.

Mahfood said the two production lines to be installed are meant to "produce WATA far more cost efficiently, to reduce our environmental impact by further lowering the amount of plastic that we use in the package", as well as to increase volumes for export.

The water market is served by multiple brands, with WATA being one of the more economical. However, a cheaper brand of purified water, called Crystal Punch, is available from Pepsi Jamaica. The small eight-ounce bottle retails for less than $30.

Mahfood said the rival product was unlikely to gin up significant consumer interest, notwithstanding its low price, and had only made small inroads since its time on the market. The product debuted in 2013.

"I believe that Pepsi has tried on numerous occasions unsuccessfully to introduce cheaper brands of water to the market. The Crystal Punch brand has been on the market for at least three to four years, and has not captured even five per cent of the market," he said.

"I think that when you take into account the sales of Catherine's Peak and to a lesser extent Lifespan, along with WATA, there are really no other bottled waters that have any market share of any consequence."

Gleaner Business reached out to Pepsi Jamaica for comment, but got no response.

Mahfood said $3 of every bottle of WATA sold by Wisynco is donated to the Shaggy Foundation and other national health-promoting projects.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com