Flow Water founder Nicholas Reichenbach on how his health and eco-conscious brand is making waves
The Goop-backed water brand has seen a 400% year on year growth thanks to its sustainable approach
It's fair to say that water brands are rarely considered a novelty, but for Nicholas Reichenbach, the founder and CEO of eco-friendly brand Flow, water has been at the pinnacle of his entrepreneurial approach to industry disruption and technological thinking ever since its first trickle in 2014. Inspired by the host of empty bottles left over at the end of a Burning Man festival, Reichenbach knew he wanted to create a plastic-free product with the environment at the very core of his business. Enter, Flow.
Flow Water is sourced from a natural alkaline mineral spring near the founder's family home in Canada, and is packed with minerals and electrolytes in all flavours. Named for the mental state of 'flow' – which Reichenbach described as being completely engaged in the now – the brand's biggest selling point is its innovative 100% recyclable packaging, made of sustainably sourced fibres. Instead of plastic, it uses FSC-certified cardboard in a BPA-free film, with an inner aluminium foil. Even the bottle's cap is created using renewable sugar cane.
"The whole genesis of Flow is to produce a fully-sustainable, socially responsible water company which allows people to move away from plastic and leave a positive impact on the planet," he tells Tempus. "Our treatment of the spring has a positive lasting impact on the environment. As a company, we are mindful about the decisions we make so that we make a positive ripple effect occurs in the company."
His work has attracted the noticed of Avengers: Endgame star Gwyneth Paltrow, whose lifestyle company Goop has named Flow an official partner for its health arm. Here, Reichenbach tells Tempus how his mindful and responsible business plan is making waves in the business world…
Why are Flow and Goop such a good fit?
When the Flow team started talking to Goop we realised that not only are our customers the same, but that our brands share the same values. It became very clear very quickly that our brands should begin working together and form a natural and organic partnership. I am delighted that Flow has become the official water partner for In Goop Health
What would you say has led to Flow's huge popularity in the US and Canada?
I think the increasing interest in Flow has occurred due to a combination of two factors. Firstly, the global wellness movement, which has surged in recent years and – specifically in the UK – the sugar tax, which has put people off drinking sugar and seen people migrate into natural and organic products. Secondly, everyone now hates plastic, and rightly so! Across major retailers, the plastic problem is being put at the forefront of corporate and buying mandates which are slowly taking plastic off of shelves and bringing alternative products to consumers. So, this combination of having a great organic product which holds naturally occurring alkaline mineral water and organically certified flavours along with our sustainable Tetra Pac packaging aligns perfectly with the increasing interests of the global consumer market. >>
Flow has experienced a 400% growth year on year. How have you achieved this result?
The majority of our growth comes from same store sales - in our 16,500 locations across North America at least half of them grow 25% quarter over quarter. We have such a strong brand and product following which has led to Flow’s weekly purchases from consumers being far greater than most other water companies.
A key part of the business is to be plastic-free. Why is this so important to you?
Sustainability is so important to me because I live on this planet. I love this planet, I love my neighbours and I don’t want to see plastic ruin the environment, the oceans and wildlife. Flow is fully sustainable: the transportation used to move the water to and from the spring is engineered using green energy whilst also operating carbon neutral in our 10,000 sq ft Tetra Pak facility in Toronto. At the core of delivering an amazing, natural and organic product is the drive to maintain a wholly sustainable business which doesn’t use plastic bottles and promotes a world of 100% renewable components where the production of plastic is reduced drastically.
Are there health benefits to alkaline spring water?
We have five million customers in North America – one million are in Canada and four million are in the US. 65% of our customers buy Flow because of the naturally-occurring alkaline minerals in the water. Flow is considered a mineral water as it has naturally occurring alkaline minerals and calcium bicarbonate due to the source – our ancient limestone spring. Calcium bicarbonate is the same as Sodium Bicarbonate, which helps to reduced acid in the stomach and inflammation in the body, while the alkalinity and electrolytes from magnesium in the water, helps the body absorb water faster. >>
Flow comes from a source very close to your heart – a spring close to your family home. How did you discover the benefits of this particular spring water?
We always knew that the spring produced high quality mineral water because it has a beautifully silky taste thanks to the concentration of calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc. However, we did not know about all the functional attributes of the water until my wife told me to test the water’s PH in 2014. Prior to becoming Flow's senior VP of brand creative strategy my wife worked in fashion, and noticed that everyone on the New York fashion scene was drinking alkaline water because of all the benefits and antioxidants. After testing it turned out that we had North America’s most substantial source of naturally occurring alkaline water on the market.
You’ve helmed a variety of businesses in your career so far – does having a wide scope of experience benefit you as an entrepreneur?
On paper it looks like I’ve had a lot of experience in business but the majority of companies that I started were orientated around either physical or digital consumer products. For the first part of my career I owned venues. I was one of the first distributors of Red Bull in Canada, which gave me a good understanding of the beverage business and events. From this I went on to create video games, customer relationship management software for hotels and a video chat platform. The common thread which unites all of my business experience is creating a product which satisfies consumer needs using disruptive technology – for Flow, our Tetra Pak is constantly breaking the ground of technology to maintain its position as the most advanced form of packaging on the planet.