In the early 1990’s, when Manhattan was hit by water contamination, Bikoff set out to buy bottled water and found that except for the brand name, there was very little difference between the different brands of bottled water sold. Bikoff was looking for additional nutritional value rather than plain water. Finding none, he started conducting an in-depth study about different companies making bottled water. He found that he could use vapor distillation to create an alternative to bottled water. Bottled water was generally procured from springs and contained some dissolved minerals, which could be removed using vapor distillation.
Bikoff then came up with the idea of starting a company that could offer a healthy alternative to soft drinks and plain water. He decided to name the company Glacéau; a combination of the words glace (ice) and eau (water) which signifies clean water.
Bikoff started the venture in the year 1996, from his father’s office in Queens, New York. He worked with R&D professionals to develop the company’s first product Glacéau Smartwater, which was sourced from glacial aquifers in Connecticut, vapor distilled, and supplemented with electrolytes. With his previous expertise on packaging, he asked his team to design a 20 ounce bottle instead of the conventional 16 ounce bottle. Another unique aspect of the bottle was its sport cap. With the popularity if the packaging, several beverage manufacturers started using caps on the bottles. Bikoff then got the bottle redesigned and the bottle was made available in half liter, one liter, and one and a half liter sizes.
The next product was Fruitwater, introduced in 1999. This was Smartwater with the added flavor of fruits and it was sugar free. Fruitwater was the first non0carbonated water with a fruit flavor. The water was subjected to pasteurization due to which it had a long life though no preservatives were added. Fruitwater was available in several flavors including watermelon, mint, pineapple, and guava.
It was in the year 2000 that Bikoff realized the potential of water enhanced with vitamins. What sparked the realization was a tiring yoga session after which he had a drink of water along with a Vitamin C wafer. The water-Vitamin combination proved extremely refreshing and planted the idea of water enhanced with Vitamins in his mind. To devise the formula for water with vitamins, he started working on the product along with a team comprising a dietician, a microbiologist, and a food scientist.
Bikoff felt that the name should reflect the fact that the product was not merely water but water with additional vitamins and nutrients. It was not long before he realized that he was creating a new category of product known as enhanced water. It’s is defined as a category based on delivering value-added nutritional benefits in a hydrating beverage, so that people can drink more water with more usage occasions.
Once the products were ready, the challenge was to get shelf space from vendors. These were problems in distributing this product through major retailers, as they were not willing to give expensive shelf space for new products. There were several small retailers who were ready to try out new products. These retailers were highly impressed by the fact that Bikoff was delivering and promoting the products himself and it was they who gave him a chance. By initially targeting smaller stores, the company built up demand. The product’s unusual appearance and unconventional packaging attracted the customers.
Initially companies like Pepsi and Coca-Cola dismissed the Glacéau product as a passing fad, but with the product gaining popularity and outselling their products like Dasani and Aquafina they were forced to take notice. In 2002, Coca-Cola introduced fortified water, Dasani Nutriwater, and Pepsi came up with Aquafina Essentials. However, neither of the two did well in the market and both products were later discontinued....