“Our goal is to be the No. 1 premium water in the country and we’re slowly getting to be No. 3,” founder and CEO Ken Uptain told BeverageDaily at the recent Natural Products Expo West show.
“We have international expansion on the horizon and we expect to start expanding internationally next year.”
Uptain, who had built an international real estate company prior to heading up Essentia, bought the company in 1997 and launched the brand in June 1998.
“Within one year, I realized I was pretty much ahead of my time that the consumer wasn’t ready for municipal water purified technology science,” Uptain said. “Everything back then was source waters.”
Uptain let the company incubate until 2008 when orders started flowing in coinciding with the alkaline diet craze taking place at the time.
“People started searching more for alkaline water in 2008… so we kind of rode that wave a little bit.”
What makes ionized water different?
“Purified water by itself is generally acidic, between 6.2 and 6.8, most of the time,” Uptain said.
To create its bottled water with a pH of 9.5, Essentia uses an ionization process that removes the negatively-charged acidic ion altering the structure of the water.
Essentia has a science advisory board that has conducted a series of clinical trials looking at the hydration properties of its alkaline a water including a pilot study that had 10 Seattle firefighters consume either Essentia Water or another bottled water brand during a mock fire exercise followed by a blood test.
“In the process of this we discovered that blood viscosity is actually the best measure of hydration,” Essentia Water's chief strategy officer, Neil Kimberley, said.
“If it’s like ketchup your heart has to work harder to pump blood through your body.”
“We proved to ourselves that we’re functionally hydrating them by changing the blood viscosity,” Uptain added.
The results of the pilot study led to a double-blind, placebo controlled clinical study with 100 healthy participants where Essentia bottled water was shown to reduce blood viscosity significantly 120 minutes after exercise-induced dehydration.
Fitting into today’s premium-obsessed market
The alkaline water category is still a relatively niche space where Essentia drives 80% of the growth, but it is the larger, booming $2.1bn premium water market that the company has its eye on aiming to grow its roughly 8% share.
“We compete in the premium category,” Kimberley said. “We believe that ionization is our way to differentiate within that space.”
According to Kimberley, Essentia has attracted consumers across generations ranging from trendspotting millennials to slightly older “label-readers” who are concerned about health and wellness.
“We have the millennial consumer that’s very engaged in a digital world. The other half of the people coming to this are people researching for ways to better hydrate,” he added.