ADEAC First Workshop and Conference in Madrid

March 9, 2012

The first meeting and workshop of ADEAC (Spanish  Watercooler Distributors, Bottlers and Suppliers Association) took place on February 16th ,at the AC Atocha Hotel in Madrid. Participating were executives and managers from the main companies operating in Spain,  with the aim of discussing and exchanging views on  the industry and its current challenges. 

The meeting schedule included two round-table discussions: ‘New Challenges in the Water Cooler Business’ and ‘Point of Use: advantages and disadvantages’. There were  also good opportunities to network and to establish direct and personal contacts with executives from the main water cooler companies in Spain.

The first round-table discussion featured Alberto Gutiérrez, General Manager of Viva Aqua Service, Antonio Alarcón, Eden Springs’ Manager in Spain, Francisco Vallejo, Chairman of ANEABE (Spanish National Association of Bottled Water Companies) and Antonio Burgos, Chairman of Fuente Azul, the leading industry player  in the Canary Islands. Issues covered during this exchange included the current economic situation, innovation, latest legislative changes and  potential market threats.

All speakers agreed on the need of innovation and courage in the current business climate.  As the water cooler business is capital intense in terms of the investments required in infrastructure and technology, it is currently not easy to enter. It was also noted that while most business sectors have felt the impact of the worldwide economic crisis, the water cooler industry has  maintained its edge.  All participants also stressed the importance of change,  to better be able to cope with the challenging   times.

Participants in the second round-table discussion ‘Point of Use: Advantages and Disadvantages’ were Jordi Morera, General Manager of Canaletas, Sergi Martí, Chairman of Aqua España, Federico Rodríguez Buzón, Deputy General Manager  from Acquajet and Mª Cinta Pastor,  Technical Manager of Oliver Rodés’ Laboratory.

Main issues covered in this part of the discussions included innovation and  communicating  with the end users, ensuring  they understand the value of the service that water cooler companies provide the society. With regard to threats to the industry, Cintia Pastor, from Oliver Rodés’ Lab, highlighted that it was necessary to remind people that water treatment in POU is more difficult to do than with bottled water, since the water collected at source is subject to more control than tap water.

All speakers agreed that POU  is a complementary option for the water cooler industry, not a substitute service.  As Jordi Morera from Canaletas, a company with 45 years of experience in producing coolers all over Europe noted: ‘There is a solution for every client and there is a client for every solution.’

Sergi Martí from Aqua España felt that despite POU’s disadvantage of requiring  hydraulic installation,  its advantages are numerous.  It generates good quality water; it is not dependent on transport; there are different prices and different water treatments available; its maintenance is cheaper compared to other solutions and its environmental impact is smaller. 

In conjunction with the meeting, WE was able to talk to Antonio Alarcón, General Manager of Eden Springs in Spain, who shared his views on the Spanish water cooler market.

WE: The water cooler industry has developed slower in Spain compared to the most advanced markets in Europe. What are the differences between the UK and the Spanish market, for instance?

AA: In Spain development has been slower for many reasons. Firstly, the financial crisis arrived at the very moment the industry began to take off. We cannot therefore see a quick switch from five gallon bottles to POU, as happened in the UK. Our market is structured in a very different way and the price approximation between HOD and POU means that the change is not so obvious for us. While the HOD and POU prices were different for the English customer, the Spanish customers do not necessarily share the same environmental concerns as the English ones.

WE: What can the Spanish water cooler market learn from other regions,  such as  the USA or Northern Europe?

AA: From the USA we have to learn how to implement HOD and find new ways of communicating the value of the service delivery to people. As to  Northern Europe, I would highlight their efforts on the quality side.

WE: Is being competitive while maintaining high standards of quality possible for all companies in these current times?

AA: The main issue here is the value of the service. We have to restore the value of the service we provide to society and make customers understand the efforts involved.

We were also pleased to hear that Mr. Alarcón finds the WE website and newsletter informative and very useful as tools that help companies stay abreast with  the general situation of the water cooler industry in Europe!