Recently I did an article on high margin or profit products – bottled water was one of them. Today I shall be diving deeper by discussing how you can start a bottled water business in Zimbabwe. It is not surprising why it is deemed a highly profitable business because profit margins can reach 200 per cent or beyond. It is a multibillion-dollar industry which when the weather is particularly warm rakes in huge amounts of money. The human body is roughly 60 per cent water which makes it an indispensable part of people’s daily lives. Over 50 per cent of the world has no access to reliable, fresh, clean water. Those are metrics to ride off in making headway in this business.
Be advised that when we say “bottled water” that is an umbrella term. Bottled water refers to several different things, for example, spring water, mineral water, distilled water, sparkling water, and flavoured water are not the same. You have to deliberately choose which types you will settle for. It is said that the most top-notch bottled water is spring water – this is water drawn directly from springs and bottled at the source. It has immense benefits to the human body, and it tastes delightful, unlike most bottled water that tastes flat. However, this is not easy to come by as springs are not that ubiquitous. That is why over 50 per cent of bottled water claimed to be spring water is actually not spring water.
Mineral water as the name suggests is bottled water that has minerals added to it. To note is that mineral water is the most mainstream. Distilled water again as the name suggests has been distilled – this means it has been thoroughly cleaned of any impurities. Sparkling and flavoured water could have undergone any of the aforementioned. For instance, flavoured water simply has flavours added to it e.g. strawberry, lemon, and so on. Sparkling water is a result of infusing water with carbon dioxide under pressure.
Have you ever heard of ozonation or seen it on bottled water labels? Well, it is a process whereby water is infused ozone. Ozonated water is anti-inflammatory which is great for health. Reverse osmosis can also be used in augmenting water purification. If you choose to produce bottled water these are all details you will have to dig deeper into. I would suggest that you produce not just mineral water; diversify into all the other niches where possible. Much easier approaches will be to simply source already bottled water and sell it as wholesale or retail.
If you are looking to produce you will need an assortment of equipment and related consumables. The number of processes you will subject your water to will determine what you will need. At the very least you can just distil the water. Where you will be operating from is also determinant – you might have to build or rent a place. Then there are licensing and regulation issues that will cost more money. You would need transportation, empty bottles, labelling equipment, packaging, and so on. For wholesale or retail you might rent a place but in most cases, you can use infrastructure you already have available to yourself.
No straight answer to this since approaches, capacities, sophistication varies greatly. In principle, at least one individual can successfully run a bottled water business.
The amount of startup capital required will vary depending on the approach you want to adopt. Doing the actual production of the bottled water is mostly costly because you will need space and specialized machinery. Water purification machines can start from as low as US$100. Capacity and sophistication will determine costs obviously. Wholesale or retail are obviously much cheaper approaches to go for. You will simply need capital to secure your initial stock of bottled water.
First and foremost, the competition in this industry is vicious. There are several market segments to consider for your market though. In Zimbabwe, you should leverage on water shortages and the widespread disarray of water treatment facilities. There are many places now where people dare not use tap water for consumptions purposes e.g. drinking. Even in cases where tap water is treated most people now shun using it for bodily consumption. This has further broadened and widened a market that was once small a few years back.
If your niche on retail, specifically moving vehicle and human traffic, you would have to pick strategic selling points. If the traffic is voluminous enough it is possible to sell on average at least 20 units of bottled water per hour. There are numerous other ways to retail bottled water. Any place where buy other things can do with some bottled water on sale. Thus places like supermarkets, shops, restaurants, and fuel stations amongst others are perfect for retail – and outlet really.
This means that if you are looking at wholesale those are niching points to consider. Wholesale you can do if either you have favourable contact with bottled water producers or you are a producer yourself. If you have chosen to produce bottled water yourself then do both wholesale and retail to maximize sales.
Important Things To Consider
Producing bottled water, if you so choose, is not a quick fix journey. It is characterised by regulation issues that must not be skirted. Never cut corners because you can end up in trouble with authorities. Over 65 per cent of bottled water is never really processed in any way; it is just drawn from the tap. This is something you must not do, no matter how tempting it can be. It is one of them, actually, the biggest concern in the bottled water industry.
In Zimbabwe, you can go for producing bottled water but it will be tough because many competitors are already in action; anything is possible though. Sourcing and selling already bottled water is easier.