U.S. Water News Online
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii -- Known for its $30-a-pound Kona
coffee beans, posh $1,000-a-night hotel suites and $1 million
ocean-view condos, the west coast of Hawaii's Big Island is now
cashing in with another pricey offering: $6 bottled water from the
bottom of the ocean.
Desalinated deep-sea water from Kona is the state's
fastest-growing export with demand soaring in Japan. Super-cold water
sucked up from thousands of feet below the Pacific Ocean's surface is
being marketed as healthy, pure, mineral-rich drinking water.
Koyo USA Corp. already is producing more than 200,000 bottles a
day and says it can't keep up with demand in Japan, where it sells
1.5 liter bottles of its MaHaLo brand for $4 to $6 each.
"We couldn't ask for better sales," spokesman John Frosted said.
"At this point, we can't make enough. We have no surplus."
Four other companies hope to cash in on the deep-sea water fad,
and so is the state, which collects royalties and rent from the
bottlers based at the state Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii
Authority (NELHA) property next to the Big Island's Kona
The state pumps the chilly water from 2,000 feet beneath the sea,
and the companies pay a few cents per bottle to use the official
NELHA logo on their label, certifying the deep-sea water was
collected at the state facility.
Koyo, the only company currently selling the deep-sea water from
Hawaii, is expanding its plant and has applied to sell the water in
the United States. It will sell for much less than in Japan.
In addition to Koyo, Asia's thirst for Hawaiian seawater also has
attracted Los Angeles-based Deep Sea Water International;
Japanese-owned Enzamin USA and Hawaii Deep Marine Inc.; and
Korean-owned Savers Holdings Ltd.
Yoshiyuki Furuno, general manager of Enzamin USA, said Hawaiian
products have strong brand recognition in Japan for being
high-quality, natural and pure.
"Japanese people have a very good image of Hawaii as a beautiful
place with azure skies, clear seas and gentle breeze," he said. "They
have a very good image for Hawaii."
Savers general manager Guy Toyama said bottled sea water has been
around in Japan since the mid-1990s but the Japanese product cannot
match the depth, quality and purity of the water from the middle of
Savers plans to begin construction this month and will sell
primarily in South Korea before expanding to China and the United
States. Its two-liter bottles will retail for about $4 and half-liter
bottles for about $2.
Koyo claims deep-sea water contains ionized sodium, ionized
chlorine, magnesium and calcium, which can help with everything from
circulation to metabolism. The depth also protects the water from
modern contaminants from industry, farming or humans, the company
said on its Web site.
Koyo's 100,000-square-feet facility feature a windowless factory
filled with modern stainless-steel machinery, conveyer belts and
pipes. Most of the process is automated and runs 17 hours per day.
Light-blue plastic bottles are blown and stacked by a robotic arm
before being rinsed, filled, capped and labeled. The bottles are then
taken to a large room where employees wearing face masks and hair
nets inspect them for loose caps, misplaced labels or damaged
"This is a sterile, phenomenally modern, robotic, well-run place,"
said former NELHA executive director Jeff Smith, interviewed just
before he left NELHA last month. "It looks like a hospital, it's so
Smith was first approached three years ago by a company that
wanted to bottle and sell ocean water, he thought it was a joke. Now,
government and business leaders from around the world have visited
NELHA to study the deep-sea water bottling phenomenon.
Smith said he realized there was a need for clean drinking water,
especially with the world's expanding population and fresh water
sources being polluted by industry or humans.
"Many people have said, 'Hey Jeff, that's a fad.' I'm thinking, so
was the car," he said. "People need water."
Smith, who has left NELHA to work for Deep Sea Water
International, said the bottlers diversify Hawaii's tourism-dependent
"No matter what the tourism industry does, these guys will keep
running," Smith said.
Mark Anderson of the state's Foreign-Trade Zone Division said
Hawaii always had difficulty creating new export industries because
Asia and the West Coast have more resources and cheaper labor.
But Hawaii may have discovered an inexhaustible gold mine.
"There's a lot of water out there. I don't think they're going to
run out," Anderson said.
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