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Feature on Spa Springs Mineral Water Company

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Nova Scotia Business Inc. along with its partners and sponsors will present The Nova Scotia Export Achievement Awards, an annual celebration and recognition of excellence in exporting across Nova Scotia on May 26, 2016. Spa Springs Mineral Water Company is one of ten companies that will be celebrated at the 2016 provincial EAA awards ceremony in Halifax.

Nova Scotia Business Inc. spoke to Wolfgang Thiel, president of Spa Springs Mineral Water Company. They bottle and export a range of specialty soft drinks to over 35 countries, shipping more than 30 containers from the Port of Halifax last year. The parent company, Splendid Drinks AG, is based in Luxembourg.  

Q: Can you share your company’s history in Nova Scotia?
In the 19th century, the mineral waters of Spa Springs attracted people from all over North America and Europe to the Annapolis Valley. Hundreds of years before that, the water was known to the Mi’kmaq as having healing properties.

At the turn of the 21st century, my family bought the Spa Springs bottling facility. We invested $3 million in 2009 to renovate the plant and bring in new equipment so that we could produce a variety of beverages in glass bottles. We started with Gize, which we gold filter to create a luxury sparkling mineral water, and the following year we began selling it to China, Dubai, and Qatar. With the success of Gize and our desire to grow the Spa Springs company, we decided to produce other types of soft drinks. The company now produces an energy drink line called 28Black. Another line of soft drinks is called 28Drinks, and SolMaté is a soft drink based on maté tea. Last year we relaunched the brand Canada Geese, which was the original mineral water brand produced by Spa Springs Mineral Water. Today, we’re exporting to more than 35 countries.

Q: What does being recognized by your local business community mean to your business and your employees?
It means a lot. Receiving such an award motivates the employees, because they work really hard every day. Eight employees work at the plant, and we also have a sales office in Halifax for Spa Springs in Canada. The award gives us a push to keep moving forward. Local recognition of local products is important, especially in Atlantic Canada. We’re proud that Canada Geese and 28Black are available locally in major grocery stores.

Q: What factors have contributed to your success?
We work hard on quality. If you visit the plant, you’ll see that everything is spotless. The equipment is German, but we also maintain a German standard in cleanliness. That’s one of our successes. When you work with food or drink, everything needs to be in perfect condition, because that reflects your commitment to quality.

Q: What do you consider will be key to your success going forward?
Concentrate on quality – it has to be better and better. And know what is going on in each of your markets. We work closely with our marketing team in Luxembourg, because each country is different and has different needs, and I think we’re good at reacting quickly to their needs. Make sure your quality is evident not only in your products but also in your processes, including transportation. Outside Canada, our customers are usually distribution companies, and part of our quality is to support them. We want to ensure that their customers, such as retailers, are happy as well.

Q: What was your biggest learning or a-ha moment?
Our biggest a-ha moment was realizing how important the Spa Springs story is to prospective customers in other countries. I always explain that Canada has the biggest resource of fresh water in the world. But when I say, “It’s Canadian mineral water,” and tell them it’s a well in the forest that has been known for hundreds of years by the Mi’kmaq, then I have their attention. That’s when the customer says, “Oh, that’s very interesting. That’s what we need.”

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you would give to new exporters, or companies considering exporting from Nova Scotia?
A: Produce high-quality products, work very hard on your marketing, and use Nova Scotia as a sales feature.

Q: And finally, what’s the best thing about being a Nova Scotia exporter?
A: For us, the best thing is the contribution we can make to Nova Scotia. We hire people from Nova Scotia, we pay taxes in Nova Scotia, and we would like to see Nova Scotia growing again in businesses like ours. I love the Valley, and we’d like to see rural populations growing and producing goods all over the Valley. Our story proves that you can succeed.

Spa Springs Mineral Water Company is in Spa Springs (near Middleton), Annapolis County. In 2015, the company was awarded the Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce Export Achievement Award.

Interested in export? Nova Scotia Business Inc. is dedicated to supporting the growth of business in Nova Scotia and our team of Regional Business Development Advisors is available to assess your needs and provide practical advice on taking your next steps toward growth in global markets.

Stay up to date on Nova Scotia export events by subscribing to our e-newsletter that includes upcoming trade development initiatives that you can participate in and highlights trade activity in Nova Scotia and beyond.