It was a big year for Kristjan Olafsson, 30, the CEO of Icelandic Water Holdings, ehf., which markets Icelandic Glacial water. The brand passed a pair of major milestones, receiving full carbon-neutral accreditation from CarbonNeutral Company, Inc. and then welcoming an investment from brewing giant Anheuser Busch, which will now help distribute the product throughout the U.S.
Combining those achievements – particularly at a time when bottled water’s environmental profi le is being impinged upon — with the product’s impressive packaging and overall quality convinced BevNET to award it “Best Water of 2007.”
Beverage Spectrum spoke with Olafsson about these achievements, and what they could mean for the category.
Beverage Spectrum: Did you always plan on running a “green” company?
Kristjan Olafsson: Our goal was always to be carbon neutral. Iceland has all green energy, so it’s easy from that standpoint. The problem was always without having someone monitoring and guiding you, giving you proper accreditation, it’s always a little tricky. The CarbonNeutral Company – helped us get in line. But beyond power usage, sourcing, trucking to wholesalers – those all lie in sort of a grey area. Our footprint is tracked all the way to the warehouse, but when we invest in the little carbon we emit, we cover it all the way to the consumer. When we first invested into the project, we didn’t buy carbon credits, we put money into carbon-reducing projects. When we do our investments, we always go above and beyond.
BS: How much of a role did your carbon-neutral status play in your aligning with Bud?
KO: Obviously, they’re very proud of us for taking these steps. But we’re still effectively in startup. It’s the whole mix of things that must have attracted them to us. They’re an equity partner, they have board representation, and they’re our master distributor for the U.S. We still run a lot of the sales and marketing efforts for the brand. We’re in with [A-B’s} the wholesalers, who are helping us hit the ground in the U.S., but we’re working with all of these big chain accounts. We negotiate the deals, but with their 700 wholesalers, it’s a lot easier to get in the door.
BS: What’s your evaluation of the beverage industry’s place in terms of environmental impact?
KO: I truly hope other beverage companies go down this carbon Green Guy: Icelandic’s Olafsson neutral path. It’s not rocket science to be environmentally responsible. Obviously, a big part of the carbon is your electricity – in many ways, that’s outside of these companies’ control, depending on where you are – but I’d say people should keep it at the front of their mind when they’re doing things, and eventually they’ll get there.