On occasion of Global World Water Day on March 22, 2020, the founder of Hallstein Water - one the best and most expensive waters worldwide - talks about quality, sustainability and the future of drinking water
Elisabeth Muhr, founder of Hallstein Wasser
Hallstein artesian water is the result of years of searching for the best drinking water. In 1999, the Austro-American founding family Muhr committed itself to the challenge of finding water of the highest quality and purity, which also has perfect mineralization and health-promoting effects. Now, with Hallstein water, the family does not only offer the highest quality, sustainable and most expensive water on the market, but also serves the new consumer behavior of conscious buyers and thus meets the new luxury.
In keeping with World Water Day, Elisabeth Muhr, the founder of Hallstein Water, talks to us about the quality and future of drinking water
What motivated you as a family to dedicate yourselves to the topic of water?
The origin is the need to avoid inflammation in the body which is caused by daily food intake. Sugar, carbohydrates and chemical additives (preservatives) are the main causes. In order to avoid acidification by these, water plays a particularly important role. This is why we decided to test water on our own.
"The result: All available waters - whether from the tap or from the store - have chemically and mechanically been modified in order to make them drinkable or to follow certain trends (e.g. alkalinity)."
So we decided to look for our own source for our personal consumption. First, in cooperation with doctors and nutrition experts, we found the ultimate properties for water that work best for the health. Since water quality depends on a specific geology, we then found the most efficient stratifications with the help of hydrogeologists and drilled our artesian well. We simply never pegged away - it was a great family project in which all 5 of us were very involved. In the beginning, we never thought that we would end up with a water company.
Founding family Muhr
What exactly is the Hallstein octagon and why is it relevant for the consumer?
The Hallstein octagon is a unique quality mark for natural drinking water. It stands for our years of research into the properties which drinking water should have in order to promote health. The information is rather complex, but we tried to summarize everything as understandable as possible.
“Exclusivity by necessity” forms an essential foundation of your corporate philosophy: do you see this as a general guiding principle for changing consumer behavior today?
Nowadays, transparency and verifiable facts are increasingly important for consumers. I think consumers get better information these days. This is certainly related to the internet and more interest in topics that are constantly going through the media. Companies that have not built on quality but on marketing are left behind. In our case, the changed behavior of informed consumers is a great advantage. Our personal confusion due to the marketing of water brands is why we got so immersed in the matter and have our own company today.
"Exclusive quality is a necessity for the best water for people."
Our motto: Exclusive quality and the best water for people, instead of: Find a huge resource and treat the water for sale. Exclusivity does not come from an artificial, marketing-driven shortage. It comes from the fact that the special geological limestone structure in combination with the glacial displacement of our source is a rarity worldwide. Furthermore, our water is quantitatively limited, because Hallstein water comes from great depths under great pressure, i.e. artesian, to the surface of our spring head and varies seasonally. If we were to pump the water, we could supply up to twenty times more customers. But that would have a negative impact on the quality of the water and it would no longer be 100 % sustainable. This also explains why it is one of the most expensive waters on the market.
Philip Muhr in Dachstein cave, a unique natural phenomenon made of high quality limestone
Are there typical Hallstein customers - if so, how would you define them? And is Hallstein actually the most expensive water on the market?
Our customers are informed consumers who simply want to treat themselves to the best. At first, everyone thinks that Hallstein is the most expensive water - and that's right. However, for the price of a massage or nail care, you can drink the ultimate cleansing, invigorating and wonderfully tasting water for a month. Then again, it's not that expensive. Many of our clients also think of their babies, children or grandchildren. The development of these groups in particular can negatively be influenced by the chemical additives and constantly growing impurities in common drinking water.
Hallstein water is 100% natural, which means that it is not exposed to any chemical or mechanical treatment. To what extent do you promote the idea of sustainability along your value chain?
Hallstein is 100% natural, free of chemicals and sustainable. I personally studied landscape ecology and have therefore been dealing with sustainability for a long time. Sustainability means, among other things, that you can take something from nature that nature produces again by itself. But then you also have to focus on sustainability in conveying, packaging and transport. With us, the water comes into our NiRosta pipes from a depth of 216 meters under self-pressure and flows into recyclable bottles by itself.
Our glass bottles are also made from reused glass, while their packaging is made from a biodegradable foam. Our water is transported all over the world by ship. We always take enough time to transport large quantities economically. In addition, our filling system has a green roof. So, there are many starting points - but always further improvements.
Now, inevitably you can only serve a limited group of consumers: How do you assess the general water supply worldwide and what should be done to improve it sustainably?
Nowadays, drinking and utility water mostly come from the same pipe. This will no longer be possible in the future. As such, it makes no sense for flower beds to be watered with drinking water or for cars to be washed with them. Due to the infinite availability of water in our households, the quality must be very low. Therefore, separate piping where drinking water is supplied separately or some other solution will soon be a necessity. In the end, it is certain that drinking water will become much more expensive.
"Because of the huge amount of drinking water available, the quality has to be low."
There are other problems in emerging countries. The drinking water supply for the population is catastrophic. That is why we support the “Operation Water” project in Mozambique. There, as in many African countries, water procurement is the responsibility of mothers. They have to carry heavy, often contaminated water tanks home from tank trucks. But meeting other women is an important social component in her life. "Operation Water" aims to make carrying water easier and cleaner.
Today, in comparison to the past, consumers spend much more on coffee, for example due to increased quality awareness or changed lifestyles: Do you think a similar development is conceivable when it comes to the resource "water"?
Yes, consumers are very willing to spend more on quality. The general lifestyle is certainly healthier than it was many years ago. Nevertheless, people want to "enjoy" and also like to afford nice things. But how do you judge whether one water is better than the other? As I said: Most expensive water is based on marketing and not on quality. Celebrities, artists or athletes are often hired to market brands in a credible manner.
In the end, we are convinced that quality will be the winner as nowadays, consumers are simply better informed. In almost all areas of consumption, there are objective quality standards and quality categories that enable consumers to recognize the best quality. For wine, this standard is, for example, Romanee Conti, Petrus or Le Pin, for caviar the Golden Beluga from Petrossian and Urbani for white truffle. For a long time, there was no quality standard for drinking water. Now, our family defines this standard first and worldwide.
What exactly do Hallstein Water's future plans look like?
We initially searched the entire world with the help of geologists in order to find the “right” constellation for the “perfect water”. We did in Obertraun. Accordingly, we are not thinking of opening up new sources in the near future. We rather want to do what we are doing as best we can. We know that we are unrivaled in terms of the quality of our water, as we keep around 2700 different types of water from all over the world in one database. Our water quality is out of competition.
Hallstein is 100 % family and owner-run: How does it work?
All 5 of us are involved with Hallstein, 4 more or less full time. Our oldest son Alexander (33) is our boss, a really competent CEO. Every company, especially a family company, needs a "guide". Our son Phillip (32) works in Central Europe and is responsible for production and sales due to his sales talent. In the future, his focus is on building clients in Europe and parts of America.
Our daughter Stephanie (30) is in Vienna and organizes events and online activities while studying for her MBA. I myself am involved everywhere, being primarily the “face of Hallstein”. I give many small lectures, give interviews and am generally responsible for public appearances. My husband Karlheinz, who works full-time for an investment bank, is of course involved in all major Hallstein decisions.
Thank you very much Ms. Muhr.