Richard’s Rainwater CEO discusses bottled water category, capacity expansion

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

Image Credit: Richard's Rainwater
Image Credit: Richard's Rainwater

Related tags Water Bottled water Sustainability beverage trends

A rainy day can spoil plans or damper the mood for most people. But for water beverage start-up Richard’s Rainwater, a rainy day is just another day in the office.

More precisely, Richard’s Rainwater is in the business of capturing rainwater, bottling it, and selling it to consumers, as Taylor O’Neil, CEO of Richard’s Rainwater, shared with FoodNavigator-USA in an interview.

Through its collection sites across the US, the brand collects rainwater in tanks, runs it through a zero-waste, chlorine-free purification process, and bottles it, O’Neil explained.

"It's just a very efficient way of capturing water ... that is very, very clean on its own and ensuring that we put the cleanest water in the bottle while maximizing the benefits of rainwater harvesting and increasing both the quality and the availability of water by just treating it more respectfully [as opposed to] letting it go into the ground and get dirty or evaporate.​"

To further its mission, Richard’s Rainwater ​is expanding its rainwater collection capabilities through a partnership with Faubourg Brewing Co. in New Orleans, Louisiana, and its parent company, Made By The Water, LLC. The decision to open a site in New Orleans made a lot of sense for one key reason O’Neil shared in the announcement: “Collecting rainwater in New Orleans made sense, as it’s one of the top three rainiest cities in the US.​”

Currently, Richard’s Rainwater offers either a still rainwater beverage (available in a 16 oz. aluminum can or a 750ml glass bottle) or a sparkling rainwater drink in a 12 oz. glass bottle, which can be purchased at Central Market, HEB, Kroger, Sprouts, and Whole Foods Market or online from Amazon.

Navigating the choppy water category

As Richard’s Rainwater expands its production capacity, it comes at a time of fierce competition across the water beverage category, with many brands leaning into marketing messages and branding to make a splash in the space, O’Neil said.

"The water category is extremely competitive and has been a category driven primarily by brand. Somebody sat down and said, 'we're [going to] target these consumers with this marketing gimmick or that tagline,' and we're [going to] segment the consumer universe.​"

With the focus on marketing, some products are coming to the market simply because they have “great brand stories​,” O'Neil claimed. Some of these great brand stories also pitch eco-conscious consumers but might ignore the environmental impact of the product itself, he added.

"It's in many ways unfortunate how the category has been developed. It's a lot of plastic bottles; it's a lot of tap water in cans or bottles. It's a lot of — again — great marketing but very little benefit, and in a lot of cases, frankly, incredible destruction of the planet and the ... local community where the product comes from.​"

While encouraged by the move away from plastic bottles in the water segment, O’Neil also pointed out that “some of these current entrants into can water have sort of started and stopped with ‘it's in a can​.’” Consumers and companies should look at brands and products through a more holistic lens, and the can format “isn’t the only thing that matters​,” O’Neil argued.

Richard’s Rainwater aims to tell a different, more holistic story

Given all the focus on the water category, Richard’s Rainwater is aiming to “cut through that noise​” with its own story, O’Neil said. One way they hope to do that is by focusing on what makes the brand unique and educating consumers on the “importance of water, the cleanliness of it, and the availability of it​.”

While more consumers and food and beverage brands alike are looking for ways to make the world a better place through more sustainable activity, O'Neil also pointed out that the conversation on having access to clean water often gets missed in the larger sustainability discussion, and it “should be moved up the chain of importance​.

"I think it's really important to add that global warming rightfully gets a lot of attention in terms of sustainability," O’Neil said. "But I think when people take a real deep look at the reality of water, it's a contributor and ... an impact of those discussions.​"

Focusing on partners, optimization, branding in 2023

As the brand looks out to the year ahead, it will be focusing on several activities, from optimizing the New Orleans site to “continuing [its] mission to build a decentralized network of collection sites across the country​,” O’Neil said.

In addition to its current production sites, Richard's Rainwater is "in discussions with various other bottlers across the country about expanding the same philosophy ... making the same products at more and more locations spread across the country​," O’Neil said. With this decentralized model for collecting rainwater, the brand will be able to "make water local, reduce the shipping [and] carbon footprint by shrinking the distances,​" he added.

Not only does the brand plan to bolster its capacity, but it also will focus on marketing activities that reinforce the “positivity and the bright future that we think rainwater harvesting can contribute to the future of clean water​.”

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