"Eastern Europe, China, and other markets are full of opportunities to grow"

Diane Koyich

International Liaison for Crystal Mountain

August 11, 2011

Diane Koyich, International Liaison for Crystal Mountain and ICBWA's Chair, speaks about the main threats and opportunities for the industry.

Diane Koyich, Chair of the International Council of Bottled Water Associations (ICBWA),  represents supplier interests in the EXECO of Watercoolers Europe, and worked for several years with the Standards & Technical Committee to establish high standards for Water Coolers and other products. A life-long proponent of environmental sustainability, Koyich is a founding member of the Environment Committee and continues to initiate and support eco-responsible practices by and for Association’s members. We found her at 17th Trade Fair and Convention at Bristol Hotel, Odessa, and asked her a few questions about her point of view...

  • WE

    After 14 years working with watercooler industry, you must have seen a lot of changes at the industry, can you highlight those you consider the most relevant to explain the current situation?

  • Diane Koyich

    Well, I think there are three things that are the most significant. One is the involvement of the larger food and beverage corporations in the watercooler business, which has changed the structure a lot. Another thing is the emergence of POU coolers using filters instead of the big bottles which is more convenient in some places. This is an option for the consumer, so it’s a huge change from the beginning years of the industry when watercoolers only used bottles. And lastly, we are moving more and more towards doing trade shows in interesting distant places. We used to go to London, Paris, Barcelona, etc. for our annual convention; that was fun and they are beautiful cities and at that time the Western Europe market was growing; but now, the market is growing in Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, Poland… So now, when we have our meetings, we meet in much more far-flung places… It is a wonderful and motivating thing.

  • WE

    With all your experience —you have seen markets and associations be born and develop, in all kinds of circumstances… How do you see the emergent Eastern markets now?

  • Diane Koyich

    From the watercooler manufacturers point of view is quite exciting, because it is growing, and they are getting organized, they want to have higher standards for hygiene, for water bottling… And that is always good for somebody who produces quality watercoolers. The expectations of companies and consumers are higher, and this always helps the market grow. On the other hand, national associations have always struggled with their members understanding how important associations are, and now we can see they start to realize that the work of associations is very important. Associations defend our interests and fight on our side in the debates and discussions with governments about the regulations the market needs. In the past, companies did not take it seriously, but now we can feel they are changing their minds step by step. And though the rules are often different in these countries than in the EU, they are adopting shared industry regulations; for example, the European normative regarding cooler’s sanitization was not affecting to Poland until two years ago, but now it does. It is a priority to have a solid legislation in common.

  • WE

    Is this a time to grow or a time to conserve achievements, in your opinion as a supplier company?

  • Diane Koyich

    At this time, we have to grow. We always choose growth. And we have to select other places where we can grow. Now, Eastern Europe and China, and other markets are full of opportunities to grow.

  • WE

    You are the International Liaison for Crystal Mountain Products Ltd – the European arm of the Crystal Mountain company family. How can you define your work?

  • Diane Koyich

    I work with the factory in China to make sure that the product meets all the regulations that our customers have to meet whatever their country’s’ regulations. I am the one that finds out what the safety/hygiene rules are in each country and I have to make sure that the factory understands what they need to do to meet the regulations. I also work to improve and make new promotional materials, overseeing all the stages to final production, and I work within several Associations to keep our company on top of industry changes. And, as my husband is one of the owners, I am always there if he needs some kind of secretarial support.

  • WE

    We know that you spend many of your work time at China, what is your principal role there? And what are the differences between Asian and European ways of working, as you see?

  • Diane Koyich

    The Chinese love to work overtime, while most Europeans value their time to go home. That is one thing. Chinese people have different habits so it can be strange at the beginning. But the main difference is that Chinese are very grateful for having a job, so they think about life and work in a very different way from the Europeans – they are more patient in waiting for promotion. They value experience; I often find that European young people want to be managers from the beginning, and forget that there is a natural process: normally, you have to work hard for years to get to the top.

  • WE

    Crystal Mountain is present in every continent… What has European industry to learn from the American or the Asian market, for instance?

  • Diane Koyich

    Hmmmm. If I am honest, I would say that it is actually the other way: It is mostly Asia that can learn from Europe and America. I have always believed that they spend a lot of energy using disposable coolers that turns into waste after they break down and do not look after their carbon footprints. One thing we could learn from them, though, is more flexibility in transporting bottles. I’ll explain: in some cities there are places, like a historical centre, where only pedestrians are allowed and you cannot drive in with a car or a big truck. In Asia they just load up a bicycle, or a motorcycle, with six or eight bottles. Sometimes in Europe, we do not see that we could maybe do things in a smaller way and service more people.

  • WE

    And has Europe something to learn from United States?

  • Diane Koyich

    They are very different markets. Europe is probably the most advanced in terms of understanding hygiene and making sure the customer understands that they need to pay to have a cooler sanitizer come in… Actually, in my opinion, Europe is now at the front of the quality water cooler business.

  • WE

    Can you tell us if you perceive added requirements in the European standards for appliances, hygiene and quality standards? Do you think industry grows apart from quality standards or both have a similar evolution?

  • Diane Koyich

    I think they are evolving together, generally industries and energy saving policies, for example, evolve together. I actually think that the actual requirements, now, are adequate for cleaning and hygiene, it is just that some countries need to make sure they are doing this. However, I really think that the more the industry grows, the more it will need saving energy policies or producing coolers that are environment friendly. We all have to learn from European standards and need to coordinate recycling, energy saving and quality policies in a global way.

  • WE

    WE recently changed its name and communication strategy. What is your opinion about it? Do you think it will promote members relationships or information exchange?

  • Diane Koyich

    Absolutely. I was part of that decision. I always felt that when we made decisions, when we did things with governments or we protected our members, very often they were not aware of this. For us, the new communication strategy will be a good way to spread our ideas and to be sure our members know of the things we do all the time; for example, the presentation I just did on stress, we are going to put it on the web for the members to have access to it.

  • WE

    What benefits or achievements do you think WE has to offer for the next year?

  • Diane Koyich

    I would like them to come up with some rewards for being loyal members. We need to get more benefits to WE members that have a long trajectory in the industry and in the association. And it would be great if communication could be improved through e-mailing and electronic information.

  • WE

    At last, which are the main threats and opportunities for the industry at this very time?

  • Diane Koyich

    I think one of the main threats is that, for some reason I don’t understand, the environmental movement attacks our industry more than others food/beverage industries that are more harmful to the environment. We have to fight against that belief, because drinking bottled water is healthy and safe, our industry has become more and more conscious of reducing our carbon, water and other footprints, and we make a lot of effort to help our customers understand this. On the other hand, I would say that one of the best opportunities I see is using filters for water coolers in some countries where the water is not very good, but I also see the bottled water market in a very positive way: now it is very common in some countries to use the pump but as they become more affluent, there will be a switch to water coolers I am certain.