While the desire for luxury and status persists, the glitter and gloss of excess waned in light of the economic downturn of 2008. In general, the bottled water industry has staggered under the weight of the recession. The most recent data from Beverage Marketing Corp. pegged 2008 revenues at $11.2 billion, compared to $11.5 billion the previous year. Preliminary data from BMC indicates that total bottled water volume continued to decline in 2009 by roughly 2.4 percent.
“All refreshment beverages have been impacted by the economic downturn, including bottled water,” said Gary Hemphill, senior vice president of Information Services Division at BMC in New York City. “We believe as the economy improves, beverages will be one of the first categories to show improvement in sales.”
Boyd admitted that his company has indeed felt the sting of the recession. But Bling H2O’s sales strategy has been its saving grace. “We do about 80 percent of our business internationally. So at the time the U.S. economy was turning down, our attention was focused on other parts of the world.” Dubai—despite its recent economic tribulation—has been particularly welcoming of Bling H2O.
While he would not divulge exact numbers, Boyd estimated that within the past four years his company has grown into a seven-figure a year business. Not bad for a man who started out gluing crystals on bottles in his kitchen. “The bottles literally went from my kitchen to my garage, and then from my garage to Beverly Hills,” he said.
These days Boyd has a bit more help, thanks to his staff of five. With the success of the business, Boyd has received a few buyout offers. “Would I sell the business? Yeah, there is definitely a price point, but it hasn’t been reached yet. It’s all about positioning,” he said, adding that at heart he is still a writer who just wanted to see an idea through.
Bling H2O remains one of a handful of luxury bottled waters, according to BMC. The long-term viability of such products is uncertain. But Hemphill insisted, “There is a market for high-end water, most of that market is led by imported waters.” However, he said, “The super premium market is relatively small as the vast majority of bottled water consumers are looking for a healthy refreshment beverage in a convenient packaged price, at a good value.”
Mascha suggested that the U.S. is behind on the luxury water movement. “If you look at places like Europe, where the trend of premium bottled water is well established, no one questions whether it has staying power,” he said. “Water remains an affordable luxury item.”
Meanwhile, Boyd is expanding the product line with a new drink called Turned Up, geared toward 13 to 21 year-olds. No, this one will not be sporting a $40 price tag. Turned Up will sell for about $1.60.
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