Coverage of the new H20 in the Marketing pages of The Grocer led to widespread exposure in the consumer press because of the product's alleged health properties. The water is drawn from a spring on a farm in Flookburgh at Morecambe Bay in the Lake District, and first aroused the attention of farmer Philip Lynott 16 years ago after he noticed that horses drinking from it rarely fell ill.
Further analysis revealed that the water contained salicin, said to be a natural aspirin', which it picks up as it filters naturally through rare white willow bark in the Cartmel Valley.
Skirmishes with Trading Standards mean the company, Willow Water, is now unable to make much more of this message for the time being. But the news appears to have already filtered through to consumers worldwide who have contacted the company requesting deliveries by mail.
Willow Water certainly has the potential to grow its fan base in the emerging aquaceuticals' category, having last year obtained a licence to extract 100 million litres a year, and it has a state-of-the-art £3.5m bottling plant near the farm.
However, the company, which employs 16 workers and gives a share of its profits to the Well Being charity it features on packs, is not getting ahead of itself.
Commercial production, which started at the beginning of the year, currently runs at a modest 3 million litres on a one shift a day system, but it plans to sell 5 million litres in the first year. Booths was the first chain of any size to stock the brand, while Waitrose came on line in May and Sainsbury has just started stocking it. Attempts to attract Tesco and Asda are ongoing and Willow Water sales director Mervyn Edgecombe admits: "Tesco has told us to come back when we have 50,000 customers, but we are not too keen on becoming a mass market brand because we want to keep our premium price of £1.29 for a 1.5 litre bottle."
A distribution deal has been struck in the Middle East and in the US. In the meantime, any marketing plans are being curtailed by the restrictions imposed by Trading Standards. Edgecombe adds: "Our problem is not capacity but the need to identify the best position for the water in the market."
and make sure our marketing complies with the Trading Standards situation.
"But we do want more sales and will go full out to get them."