A Hong Kong-based global conglomerate has made its first foray into the UK bottled water market with a new brand it claims will plug the gap for a "truly English offering".
Hutchison Whampoa, the multibillion-pound company that owns Superdrug and mobile phone operator 3, has backed the launch of Iceni Water, the name of the company and the still bottled water range, with an eight-figure investment.
Available from Tesco, Morrisons, Co-op and Wilkinson from this month, and backed by a £650,000 marketing push including in-store activity, sampling and sports sponsorship, the range is being positioned at the everyday premium end of the market.
It is being targeted at the lucrative London and south east market and is going head to head with the Danone-owned Evian and Volvic.
The water, which is naturally high in calcium and low in sodium, is drawn from a chalk aquifer beneath the South Cambridgeshire countryside. It is packaged in 100%-recyclable PET bottles and is bottled at a purpose-built £11m bottling plant capable of producing 15 million litres a year, with a second line ready to go when demand requires.
Iceni MD Brett Fleming-Jones forecast that Iceni, an ancient English word meaning clear water, would become one of the top 10 bestselling still bottled water brands in its first year.
"Given the UK's growing awareness of, and insistence on, good food provenance and low food miles, there is a clear gap in the market for a truly English brand, particularly one serving the south east," he said.
The company has a licensing agreement in place for its 330ml line for kids, as well as plans in the pipeline for a tie-up with a water charity to tap into the thirst for ethical drinks.
Iceni will be run as a subsidiary of Hutchison Whampoa's Cheung Kong Infrastructure (CKI) business, which sold water brand Powwow to Nestlé Waters four years ago.
CKI is the world's biggest distilled water manufacturer, and another subsidiary is Hong Kong-based bottled water supplier Watson Water.