GIVN bottled water sees growth potential for everyday social-good products

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: GIVN Goods, Inc.
Source: GIVN Goods, Inc.

Related tags Drinking water Bottled water

Offers to buy-one, get-one free are an effective marketing strategy, but the maker of GIVN bottled water believes an even more effective take on this technique is an offer to buy-one, give-one. 

“People want to be good, but they also want to be seen as good,”​ which is why they increasingly are reaching for “cause products,”​ the purchase of which helps someone in need, said Liz Skalla, VP of business development at GIVN Goods, Inc., which markets GIVN bottled water.

She noted recent research found nine out of 10 consumers prefer to buy “cause products,”​ over similar non-cause products – giving one-for-one companies like GIVN a foothold and competitive edge in crowded categories, such as bottled water.

The success of the buy-one, give-one model also is reflected in the company’s 95% reorder rate by retailers, and its rapid distribution expansion since it launched the bottle water in June 2015, Skalla said.

Within just six months of launching, the young company inked deals with three distributors and already is sold in 50 stores in the Midwest, John Houseal, co-founder and director of product & operations, told FoodNavigator-USA. In the last week of December, a larger regional chain – Jewel Osco – agreed to stock the water in more than 140 of its stores in the Midwest beginning March 1. More agreements are in negotiations.

Securing a competitive edge is not the primary reason Houseal said he and his co-founder opted for the one-for-one model. Rather, he said, they wanted to show how the social-good model can be expanded beyond saturated categories focused on periodic purchases, such as shoes and backpacks, and be used as “a force for good”​ to meet everyday needs.

“About 300 million Americans buy bottled water every day,”​ even though most people feel guilty about buying a product that generates trash, Houseal said. At the same time, there are a billion people without access to clean water, and by marrying the two elements, Houseal said Americans can feel better about buying bottled water.

Fulfilling a promise

Unlike some social-good models that donate an in-kind product for each they sell, or give a percentage or their profits or income, GIVN is unique in that for each bottle of its water purchased it donates enough money to existing organizations to pay for one person to have clean water for a day, Houseal said.

He opted to give money instead of product because he learned while working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier in his career that “the world doesn’t need another nonprofit dedicated to the water crisis. What it needs is more funds going to the right nonprofits.”

With that in mind, the company partners with Water is Basic, which provides clean water to South Sudan,, which provides safe water worldwide, and UNICEF Tap Project.

GIVN was so excited to “actively pay it forward,”​ that it already donated funds to buy 185,000 days of clean water, even though it has yet to sell that many bottles, Houseal said. He explained that by paying ahead, GIVN hopes it will not fall behind on its contributions like some other one-for-one companies have in the past.

GIVN also maintains consistent feedback with its partners to understand how their cost structures and needs are changing, and what is impacting their ability to deliver clean water each day, Houseal said.

To ensure that GIVN meets its stated goals, the company became certified by 1% for the Planet and later it became a certified B Corp.

The certifications also help the company eke out space on crowded retail shelves because retailers can be confident that GIVN is doing what it says it is doing, Houseal said.

Communicating a value

Certification through 1% for the Planet and B Corp, however, is not as an effective communication tool with end users as it is with retailers, prompting the company to rely instead on messaging on its label, website and social media, as well as word of mouth.

The company was surprised to discover one of the most effective marketing tools for consumers is “one of the smallest lines of text on the label”​ and a “last minute addition”​ to the package that claims each bottle is “infused with good karma,”​ Skalla said.

She explained that the line resonates with consumers by communicating at the most simplistic level that GIVN water is a socially responsible product and one they can feel good about purchasing. This brings the company back full circle  to the notion that consumers want to do good, but also be recognized for their efforts in some way.

Consumers also can feel good about what is in the bottle – premium spring water sourced from independent suppliers in Polar, Wisc., Houseal said. The website describes the water as “naturally alkaline and high in electrolytes. No additives, no distant lands, always seriously good.”

Likewise, consumers can feel good about the bottle itself, which is biodegradable and will decompose at the same rate as the morning newspaper, he added.

Expanding distribution

Going forward, Skalla and Houseal the young company plans to continue to expand distribution with larger chains in the Midwest and is exploring other platforms for partnering with retailers to boost the social good it can provide.

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