Springbox: Canadian Spring Water
Water in a box may not seem that revolutionary and idea on first blush, but in fact it is. For decades, consumers have had options of using tap water, treated well water and, increasingly, bottled water. Billions of bottles are sold every year, mostly the personal 500 ml size, but also larger sizes. They are convenient to carry, and people routinely pick up cases of them for camping trips, for special gatherings or extended road excursions.
Unfortunately much of that plastic ends up out in the natural environment, polluting both water and land, as millions of individuals seem to prefer just tossing the bottles instead of recycling them. Some companies are more successful at encouraging people to take larger refillable bottles, which can be delivered and picked up to a customer’s home or place of business. One such company is Oak Hills Water, which serves much of the Bay of Quinte Region.
A recent offshoot of this Stirling-based water provider, Springbox Canadian Spring Water, has developed an innovative new way of packaging their artesian spring water, using a minimal amount of plastic. The Springbox model sees 10 litres of water held in a plastic bag, enclosed in a fully recyclable, easy-to-carry- cardboard box, accompanied by a tap that was modified from a patented design created in South America.
Opening earlier in 2017, Springbox water is being sold at a number of grocery and specialty stores throughout the Bay of Quinte Region. Company founder Larry Groves and his son Matt, who runs Springbox, said they have ambitious plans to move into the GTA to take advantage of the apartment and condo market, as well as appealing to people who are already very concerned about their own personal environmental footprint. This is because the whole philosophy behind Springbox is to give consumers wanting very high quality water a real, sustainable alternative to plastic bottles.
“It’s like carrying 20 small bottles of water, but a lot easier, and it allows you to have water on tap wherever there isn’t a tap, or a better option than a bunch of plastic bottles that may or may not end up being recycled,” explained Matt, adding that he is very passionate about the product because of how damaging the proliferation of small plastic bottles is to the environment in a number of different ways.
“For most manufacturers, to produce one 500 ml bottle, the waste water that is involved in that process pretty much adds up to 1.5 lies of water. So you’re using three times the amount of water just to bottle 500 ml. And the other big thing is the incredible amount of plastic bottles not being recycled in the Province of Ontario because there is no bottle deposit program here.”
Water made in Stirling
Oak Hills, which has been in operation since the mid-1990s, focuses on manufacturing and selling the reusable 18-litre water bottles, and rarely makes anything smaller. Springbox uses the same facility and same water source to manufacture and fill its product, making for a very efficient operation. The property itself was purchased in 1982 and run as a family farm operation for many years.
“We raised cattle and horses and one of the hard parts about raising those animals in North America is that everything freezes in the winter time. But this farm was found to have these ever-flowing streams and springs on it, which were ideal for us to run an outdoor cattle and horse operation. We actually farmed full time until about 1995 when I thought about using the water. By this time our kids had discovered the actual source of the springs and we thought about developing that resource to help with the cash flow on the farm. We initially thought about fish farming, but then decided we would open a water bottling factory and Oak Hills Water was formed,” said Larry.
The water itself is quite special, not just for how clean, alkaline and mineral rich it is, but how it requires no mechanical assistance to come up from the ground. Larry likened the discovery of the artesian springs on the farm property he bought 35 years to the fictional Clampetts discovering a ‘bubbling crude’ on TV’s the Beverly Hillbillies.
“They are naturally artesian springs; the water comes to the surface under pressure, lord knows from where, I guess from the aquifer beneath us. The springs are being supplied from some area which is a higher elevation that we are, and because of that they come out under significant pressure. What we did was create a ‘spring box’, and that’s what this process is called, where you put a container over the top of these springs. You allow the water to rise in that container and then you decant it off and it runs down the pipe, so you are now able to control it,” Larry explained.
“We have done this with a number of the springs and our permit allows us to have access to 70 gallons a minute of flow from springs that actually produce almost 400 gallons a minute. We channel that water 1,600 feet down from the hill, 66 feet above the building that we operate in, so that water is constantly flowing by a pipe through the Oak Hills operation. We tap into that flow as needed, and whatever we don’t use continues to flow back into the brook.
“This means that the footprint is very environmentally friendly. There is nothing mechanical bringing the water to the ground, and we don’t take anything more than what nature provides.”
Building Brand Recognition
Matt said the biggest challenge faced by Springbox is public education – getting folks to understand the damage being caused by the proliferation of small plastic bottles.
“The Earth is alive and if we keep feeding it as much junk as we have been, it will eventually die. It’s like a human being who is smoking, drinking or doing drugs all their life – their body will shut down. And that’s exactly what we’re doing to the Earth,” he said.
“Education is the hardest thing and it’s going to take a lot more education. So much of what people think is spring water is actually just bottled municipal water anyways. Right now, though, we’re going after the low hanging fruit in terms of a consumer audience. The millennials and people who are very environmentally aware, and who are into local options, and craft and artisanal products that are very natural and wholesome – that’s our target market at the outset. These are people who don’t mind spending a little extra to help the planet.
“We’re not going after 100 per cent of the market yet. We’re going after that very specific one or two per cent. But if we can do one or two per cent of all water consumers in Canada then we have helped the environmental footprint massively.”
Springbox continues to build brand recognition and a solid reputation throughout the Bay of Quinte Region and is working to expand throughout Eastern Ontario, and also to get into retailers within the GTA and beyond. They are also working to tap into the outdoor sports enthusiast market, particularly hunters and anglers.
“I have made a number of presentations to hunters groups explaining the benefits of bringing three cases of plastic water bottles to your hunting camp as opposed to three Springbox boxes. It’s so much less waste,” said Matt.
For more information on Springbox Canadian Spring Water, visit www.springboxwater.ca.