100% recycled ocean-bound plastic: Ex-Soylent, KeVita exec Bryan Crowley joins ZenWTR as CEO

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Bottled water, Zenwtr

Beverage industry veteran Bryan Crowley has taken the helm at ZenWTR, a high pH, distilled bottled water brand seeking to stand out in the category with 100% recycled PET bottles made with certified ‘ocean bound’ plastic, a first for the industry.

The brainchild of serial entrepreneur Lance Collins - who struck CPG gold with brands including CORE (which was sold to Keurig Dr. Pepper for $525m in 2018), NOS, FUZE and Body Armor - ZenWTR​​​ is bottled in southern California and is currently available in around 5,000 stores including Walmart, Safeway, Giant, H.E.B and AM/PM stores.

How to communicate what we’re doing is one of the biggest challenges,” ​said Crowley (co-founder of hard kombucha brand Flying Embers, former CEO at Soylent, and chief strategy officer at KeVita) who was named CEO this week after working for ZenWTR on a consultancy basis for three months.

‘By 2050, our oceans will contain more plastic by weight than fish’

While the bottle says ‘ocean plastic,’ for example, the plastic used in ZenWTR bottles (certified by OceanCycle ​and turned into ​​rPET by partner CarbonLITE​​​) is really ‘ocean-diverted’ or ‘ocean-bound’ as it is not pulled out of the ocean, but recovered from within 30 miles of a coastline, or collected from beaches, waterways, and coastal areas, from a range of locations including Thailand, and turned into flakes, said Crowley.

“Once plastic gets into the ocean, it starts to degrade, so it’s too late to recover it for use in food grade recycling for example.

“We’re getting ready to do some consumer testing to find the best way to talk about this​,” he told FoodNavigator-USA. “But it’s a huge problem. Projections suggest that by 2050, our oceans will contain more plastic by weight than fish.”

COVID-19 and bottled water

While COVID-19 has depressed  bottled water sales growth in recent weeks as on-the-go consumption has dropped, ZenWTR is nevertheless performing well in Whole Foods and other leading chains, said Crowley.

Some resets have been delayed, and you can’t go out and hand out bottles at events – all the things you would usually do to launch a new beverage brand – so it’s a very challenging time to launch, but we’re getting a great response from the market so far. The ocean plastic aspect is a huge deal, but the high pH is also a fast-growing category in bottled water, so these things are working in tandem.”

ZenWTR_CEO_Bryan_Crowley
Bryan Crowley: "Projections suggest that by 2050, our oceans will contain more plastic by weight than fish.”

Sustainability and bottled water

ZenWTR goes through a reverse osmosis process before being ‘vapor distilled’ [ie. the water is boiled to create steam and then cooled to return it to its liquid state] and UV treated. Electrolytes are added for taste.

Although boiling water uses energy, ZenWTR claims that the use of the ocean plastic in the bottles, coupled with the fact that ZenWTR uses locally sourced​ municipal water as a water source rather than “trucking water half way around the globe,” ​​makes it a better choice than some other premium bottled water brands.

While it’s arguably more sustainable – and a lot cheaper - to drink tap water, especially when you’re at home, “The reality is that the bottled water market is meeting a consumer need, especially for hydration on the go, and bottled water is replacing sugary carbonated beverage occasions​,” claimed Crowley.

“The apparel industry is in a similar situation. Do we need new fashions every season, no, clearly not, but the market is there, so they are trying to meet that need more sustainably.”

Read more about ZenWTR HERE​.

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