CHIANGRAI TIMES – Phetsuwan Mineral Water started up with Buddhism beliefs when a well-known abbot in Phetchaburi pointed out a water source in Chiang Rai’s Wieng Pa Pao area. After being tested in the market for a couple years, the product is now ready to serve the demand of health-conscious consumers.
The springs were discovered on upper areas safe from contamination and the penetration of possible chemicals from nearby areas. Villagers believe that the mineral water from Wieng Pa Pao can cure pain in the joints.
Although Wieng Pa Pao is a well-known source of mineral water, the springs were found on the company’s grounds.
The water’s quality was certified by some institutions as containing only 0.01ppm (parts per million) of sodium. This convinced the company to start commercial production. However, production has not reached a high level due to strong competition from other brands. In the beginning, the company is focusing on health-food shops in Bangkok and Chiang Rai with three bottle sizes – 300ml, 600ml and 1.5 litre.
Managing director Sornsak Congtrakultien said recently that the company is focusing on traditional retail outlets and health-food shops. However, it plans to access the modern trade more this year.
“Due to our high-quality water, we plan to capture more medium to upper-market customers through our direct sales strategy,” he said.
The company is considering penetrating more markets in Bangkok but high logistics costs would delay market expansion. It is considering pooling with other goods to reduce its transportation costs. Meanwhile, it has to focus more on marketing upcountry. It would spend two years on the development of both packaging and management before entering the lucrative market in Bangkok.
The company is working on a new package design that will be completed in April. The new package will allow the product to be carried by convenience stores.
With only a small investment of Bt12 million, the company targets to sell 10,000 packs per month of those three bottle sizes. Its sells 4,000 packs per month now.
To promote the mineral water, the company will not only expand its direct sales marketing to Northern provinces such as Chiang Mai but also participate in more trade exhibitions.
“We have unique customers who always drink mineral water and avoid other water,” he said.
The company neither made a big investment nor dug holes randomly to search for water underground.
All it did was inviting a revered monk from Wat Pothaimanee in Phetchaburi province to sit in meditation. Before long, the monk could tell where the mouth of a spring was.
“Luang Por Noi told us there were two mouths of a spring at this site,” said Sornsak Congtrakultien, the company’s managing director.
“He even informed us there was a large, deep basin down there with plentiful mineral water,” said Mr Sornsak, speaking from the company’s compound in Ban San Khu, a small community about 900 kilometres north of Bangkok. The location is actually owned by Kasorn Kampor, a retired teacher who had long encouraged a former student and successful businessman, Mr Montri _ also the father of Mr Sornsak _ to search for mineral water.
She strongly believed there were springs in her 10-rai plot, where numerous longan and lychee trees grew. But at 70 years old, it was hard for Mrs Kasorn to start the business.
“We decided to lease the land, and drilling for mineral water began right after the assurance of the monk,” said Mr Sornsak.
The prediction was right. The drilling operation easily found the mouth of a spring by digging just 10 metres down, sending a strong stream of water gushing into the air.
Testing by Maejo University and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) showed the mineral water contained useful and appropriate amounts of calcium, sodium, sulphate, silicon, fluoride, potassium and phosphorus.
Mr Sornsak’s family set up Phetsuwan Mineral Water Co in 2009 and built a plant to process bottled mineral water for sale. The production process is in line with FDA regulations that require mineral water to be obtained directly from natural or drilled sources underground and packaged close to them.
Most importantly, the perimeter of the site is protected to keep pollution from affecting water quality.
The product won the Chiang Rai Otop Product Champion award in 2010.
Sales manager Janejira Wittayasomboon cited the bright outlook of healthy products such as mineral water.
Based on company surveys, mineral water is first on the list of demands by health-conscious consumers.
According to industry reports, bottled drinking water formed an 18-billion-baht market last year. Of the total market value, 2 billion baht was mineral water, 80% of which was made locally, with Aura and Minere among the leaders.
Ms Janejira said competition among local products is intense. To crack the market, Phetsuwan has aggressively entered specialty outlets such as vegetarian food stores, educational institutes and government organisations.
Distribution via direct sales at fairs and trade events will help Phetsuwan fight the big brands, she said.
Mr Sornsak said the firm’s successful business plan has prompted an increase in capacity to 10,000 packs a month from 4,000 packs.
Bangkok accounts for 60% of sales volume, with Chiang Rai and nearby provinces making up the balance. “At this pace, we’re confident of capturing a 5% share in locally made bottled mineral water next year,” Mr Sornsak added.