Benjamin Gott Proves Boxed Water is Better

Check out the transcript of RFC’s conversation with Benjamin Gott.

Back in late September we wrote a blog featuring Boxed Water is Better, a water company that takes a more environmental approach than your traditional bottled water company. Boxed Water is Better is a company based out of Grand Rapids, Michigan that distributes water in cartons oppose to plastic bottles. The concept derives from the environmental issues that are caused by the overwhelming amount of plastic bottles entering landfills.

We were lucky enough to get in touch with the founder and designer of Boxed Water is Better, Benjamin Gott. He agreed to be a guest on our Recycling for Charities Podcast Radio Show to sit down and answer all of our questions about Boxed Water is Better.
Benjamin Gott

It all started with a simple idea of creating a new bottled water brand. Sounds simple right? Well Gott didn’t want it to be just like every other brand. He wanted one that was kinder to the environment and also gives back at the same time. His solution was instead of packaging water in a plastic bottle he would bring back the old school carton and use that instead. Hence, the name Boxed Water is Better.

The company was officially launched last March, but the idea was originally formulated in April of 2008. A year and some months later Boxed Water is Better is making some major moves. “The idea came about and we didn’t have any experience in the beverage industry, but we thought there was a better way to do it,” said Gott. They decided to create something that was simple yet beautiful, which led them to go back and reference the simple carton shape. At no point did they consider themselves luxury water. They considered themselves a simplistic answer to bottled water. To further differentiate themselves they decide to go a more sustainable route than bottling the water in plastic. They decided to use a paper carton which is composed of a more sustainable resource, that being trees.

“I mean it’s a massive industry. Bottled water is a $15 billion to $16 billion industry in ’07 and ’08 I believe,” stated Gott.

With numbers like that being thrown around, Benjamin had to figure out a way to make sure Boxed Water is Better stood out. On one front there was the environmental aspect that he could use in his favor. Not shipping empty bottles to the filler and instead of shipping the cartons would save a significant amount of energy. The cartons are considerably lighter than the plastic bottles. They also lay flat so in a sense you are just delivery a box of paper somewhere. On top of thinking about the environment, Boxed Water is Better also plans to give back.

“We’ll be giving back to kind of the things that compose our products which majority of that is paper and of course water,” says Benjamin.

They will be giving back to a World Water Relief fund as well as reforestation efforts. This makes sense because two of the main components of the product are A) the carton itself (paper) and B) Water. This hopefully will allow Boxed Water is Better to find it’s place within the packaged water industry.

One of the biggest challenges Gott faced when he started the company was that he did not have any experience in creating a brand in the water industry. “I’ve never done anything with beverages before. Like some of our biggest challenges right off the bat was the carton itself,”said Gott. Like most brands the packaging plays a key role in the products success. It wasn’t as simple as just putting water in a carton instead of a bottle.

“Being a traditional style package finding fillers was difficult for us. Finding people that even saw the vision was difficult. Minimum orders from our carton manufacturer were massive in the beginning so we had to be kind of clever and work those numbers down,” says Gott.

It was hard for many people to understand the advantageous position Gott was in with his idea. The challenge was trying to find fillers that caught on to the idea and yet were close to home. Gott says, “Other challenges we faced were that there’s a lot of water brands like some of the bigger ones that are filled far. I mean Fiji’s actually filled in Fiji in the bottle and then shipped over here.” The process may stick with the brand name, but there is so much energy being used from shipping it so far. If Boxed Water is Better followed that path it would defeat the purpose of being a sustainable product. This led to the challenge of find local fillers and local areas to distribute the water so they did not have to use energy shipping far. Another problem they ran into on the way was being perceived as big company trying to sell something that was not needed.

Gott will be the first to admit that tap water is better than any other resource you have available, including the purchase of bottled water. Still there is an existing market for bottled water and it is not going anywhere. There had to be something that could be done to make it a little bit better. Once they had their product, they had to come up with the best way to market it or reveal it to people.

To do this Gott took a very simplistic approach. They did not go through all the funding needed for a massive roll-out. “Instead what we did was very simple, I took it to a market that we eat lunch at every single day.” While eating there everyday Gott became very familiar with the owner and simply asked him if he could put his product on their shelves. He was confident this would work because the design of the box sticks out compared to your everyday bottle. People are more likely to pick it up because it is something they are not familiar with it.

“The first time you see it you’re like what, what is that?  It’s black and white. Traditionally you know bottled water brands are this sea of blue or tinted blue and tinted green and there are icecaps and there are waterfalls and there are mountains and everything is very similar,” stated Gott.

They decided to go in the complete opposite direction and keep it simple with the black and white carton. The idea was to differentiate themselves from the every other water brand. In the same sense, they decided to go with a very simple launch in a market they thought it would do well in.

“I would highly advise differentiating yourself in any market that you go into. Don’t do it just for circumstance sake, we kept it simple because our product was inherently as boxed water. The brand is the product and the product is the brand,” stated Gott

This is exactly how Gott would market Boxed Water is Better. Being that is was so different and in hope that it would easily gain attention, Gott sent out two press releases to admire blogs and websites. From there he credits Twitter as the main source of marketing to fillers and businesses. People started twittering about the product and the design to the point that it started to get picked up by bigger sites. Eventually, magazines started to get in touch with them and they even had a story on ABC’s Good Morning America. Once Boxed Water is Better garnished national attention in the media the next step was marketing to consumers.

Gott feels that the moment people see it in the store they are going to pick it up. The curiosity of the unfamiliar is what he is banking on. Even if people don’t purchase it they are still going to wonder. They are going to read the copy and wonder what it means. They rely heavily on the idea that people are going to look it up and find out. Boxed Water is Better has a very simple website address to remember and are also the first link on Google when boxed water is searched. “I guess being genuine and then having something that truly differentiates you is very shocking to a lot of people.It’s like what is it? Well it’s water; it’s a box with water in it.” For Boxed Water is Better to differentiate themselves they have been very literal, just look at their name. With their name being the essence of their product it leaves very little room for competitors.

Boxed Water is Better can be primarily found in west Michigan, but is making moves to expand. In the past 6 to 8 weeks they have been looking into markets in Chicago, New York, and the rest of Michigan. They try to keep their products in certain businesses like coffee shops and delis. Restaurants have requested the water but Benjamin doesn’t see the fit, “We kind of stray away from restaurants because they have tap water readily available or they have filtered water readily available. I think it’s pretty wasteful to just bring out bottled water that isn’t sparkling or mineral water or something specific.”

In establishing a name for themselves, Boxed Water is Better plans to expand to other cities and states. All while keeping in mind the environmental aspects of their product. Not only is it more energy efficient than plastic, but it is also better for the environment. Plus once the money starts pouring in, Boxed Water is Better will give back to World Water Relief and reforestation funds furthering promoting an environmental friendly product. They also are looking into ways to become more sustainable and resourceful for future endeavors. Much like Recycling for Charities, Boxed Water is Better is creating a product that not only supports green initiatives but also gives back to good causes.

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