SME Magazine catches up with Michael Lowers, Founder of Neue Water
Mike, can you start by telling us about your business. What was the inspiration behind it?
The idea for NEUE came at a time when I was consulting for a luxury fashion label. They had a busy atelier studio, so lots of fabulous women came in and out for fittings with their designer handbags in tow. During their fitting, they were offered bottled water as a refreshment. At the end of the fitting, the clients would want to take the water with them on the go, but when they would try and put it in their designer handbag it wouldn’t fit. Sometimes they would even just eye up the bottle to see if it would fit, and you could see them noticing it wouldn’t so they would leave the bottled water on the table. After seeing that several times I thought, why has no one ever designed bottled water to fit a woman’s handbag? Having noticed this glaring gap for women’s small handbags, I also realised it was the same for aeroplane seat pockets, jean back pockets, and even suit jacket pockets, which had all never had something designed to fit. That is where the idea for NEUE Water was born.
What is its USP?
We’re pretty lucky in that we have a few. Firstly the multi award winning design, for which there is simply nothing on the market like it. We also have the artist designed labels, and the ability to collaborate and create bespoke executions for other brands. Then I would say sustainability. We’re not the only brand using 100% recycled plastic, however in the premium space there are few. On top of that there are none that actively promote their bottles being refilled before being recycled, which purposely made our bottle sturdier and make note of it on the back label.
You change the look of your bottles quite often. Why is this and how is it working?
We plan to change the artist designed labels with the fashion seasons, just like we as consumers do. The idea is to keep the bottle fresh, standout on shelf, and offer something different.
Do you remember any particular challenges you have faced? How did you overcome them?
There is rarely a day that goes by without challenges. One of the first we came up against was the fact that no-one in the UK could co-pack our unique bottle design. That was a pretty big one as it meant we couldn’t launch the product. We broadened our net and started calling around Europe and pretty much never gave up until we got lucky and found someone who could support us.
Sustainability is central to your business. How is this achieved?
NEUE Water is one of the only premium bottled water brands globally that exclusively uses 100% recycled plastic (rPET) for its bottles. That’s important because using 100% rPet is one of the most effective ways to conserve natural resources, reduce carbon emissions, and control the environmental impact of plastic pollution. rPET has been available for over a decade, yet it’s still rare for premium brands to use it across their global production despite 100% rPET producing up to 10 times fewer carbon emissions than aluminium cans and up to 20 times fewer than glass bottles – thanks to the need for no raw materials. As well as reducing Co2 emissions, rPET also helps to reduce plastic waste, by making use of waste plastic that would otherwise end up in oceans or landfills. Another unique element to the design, the NEUE bottles are made sturdier so they can be refilled before recycling them.
Looking forward, where do you hope you will be doing in, say, five or ten years?
We want to be the #1 premium bottled water brand in the world. In five years we want to be sold globally, have a range of complimentary products and be well known within FMCG.
What do you enjoy about your job?
The variety and creativity. Every day there is something new, and so many things require creativity that it keeps it exciting.