Icelandic Water opened its long-awaited 'naturally powered' bottling facility late last month. Michelle Russell visited the new state-of-the-art plant and spoke with the company's CEO and co-founder, Jon Olafsson, about the company's carbon neutral certification, the progress of the Icelandic Glacial brand and what the future holds for the business.

just-drinks: What does it feel like to have your new plant up and running?

Jon Olafsson: We are absolutely delighted with the end result. The whole process has gone extremely smoothly, all the way from the actual construction of the building to the installation of the equipment. We now have an impressive new operation that can meet the growing consumer demand for Icelandic Glacial well into the future and one that stands out in the industry on an environmental level.

j-d: You already export to the US, Canada, Netherlands, Germany and UK. Do you have any plans to extend your distribution further?

Olafsson: We definitely have plans to distribute to more countries around the world. I want everyone to have access to our water. The fact that we can produce and distribute Icelandic Glacial with a 'net zero' carbon footprint gives us a very strong advantage and makes the product even more attractive to consumers and retailers globally.

j-d: Last year you signed a deal with Anheuser-Busch for distribution rights and a 20% stake in the company. That must have been a big move for Icelandic Water. What kind of impact has it had on your company?

Olafsson: Having a company such as Anheuser-Busch involved has certainly helped the rate of our national rollout in the US and opened a number of doors in specific sectors. This, combined with our extremely passionate sales team, has enabled us to have a much bigger impact in the market compared to other similar-sized brands in such a relatively short timeframe.

j-d: Icelandic Water is certified as a carbon neutral company. Do you think other companies could learn from what you are doing?

Olafsson: Other companies are already starting to follow our lead which we look upon very positively. As long as they are incorporating solid environmental changes in a credible manner and for the right reasons then I think it will certainly benefit the industry and the consumer. There have been too many companies taking advantage of the green movement without certified credentials; this has simply caused confusion amongst consumers, diluting the efforts of real environmentally responsible brands.

Jon Olafsson, CEO and chairman of Icelandic Water

j-d: Do you think it is easier for you to be a carbon neutral company because of the country you live in and the resources you have at hand?

Olafsson: Definitely. Iceland is a very unique place and the natural energy we have gives us a superior foundation compared to other companies who need to rely heavily on offsetting in order to significantly lower or neutralise their carbon footprint. Having this natural energy means that the only factors we offset are external, such as shipping and employee travel; we then go over and above our carbon neutral status by investing in renewable energy programmes, such as hydropower in China, wind power in Turkey, reforestation in Mexico and methane capture in the Netherlands.

j-d: Do you think there is any more your company can do to become even 'greener'?

Olafsson: We are always looking at ways to become even greener, and will be investing further in the years to come.

j-d: Has the company any plans to launch additional products in the near future?

Olafsson: We have a 330ml bottle being added to our product line, which is coming out later this year. We also have a striking brushed metal sleeve for the on-premise market, which fits around our 1-litre bottle for restaurant dining.

j-d: We understand the company is lobbying for ongoing recycling programmes that follow consumption of the product. What does this involve?

Olafsson: Because Icelandic Glacial reaches the consumer with a 'net zero' carbon footprint, we want consumers to be able to complete the 'green cycle' by recycling our product. For this to be successful, recycling has to be easy and accessible. Sadly not all towns and countries have good or the same systems in place; our goal is to reach out and look at ways to lobby for improvements.

j-d: You are well known for building companies from the ground up. What are your long-term plans for Icelandic Water Holdings and for the Icelandic Glacial brand?

Olafsson: I am very passionate about the company and the brand. Therefore I want to see Icelandic Glacial succeed in all areas, becoming the leading premium bottled water in the market. We have a strong foothold in the US and I believe that we can be equally as strong in the UK.

j-d: Who do you see as your main competitors in the bottled water market?

Olafsson: There are a lot of bottled water brands out there today, each one extremely different from the next. Our competitors would be other premium waters. However, few if any have the environmental positioning we do.

j-d: Where is your brand positioned?

Olafsson: We are a premium brand. We have stylish, stand-out packaging, award-winning taste, exceptional purity and leading environmental credentials. Other brands do not share the same premium nature as us; therefore I feel that we are extremely well positioned compared to the competition.

j-d: You founded Skifan and IBC which are in very different industries from the one you are in now. What made you change direction? Do you miss the media, music and entertainment industries, and would you go back?

Olafsson: The story of how we acquired the spring and founded the company is extremely interesting - it was actually somewhat of an accident. I had plans of retirement after selling my music, media and entertainment businesses.

My son Kristjan acquired the commercial rights to the spring on behalf of another businessman. The individual later pulled out, leaving us with a water company. We knew how pure and special our Icelandic water was; therefore we decided to create Icelandic Glacial and deliver our premium water to the world. Do I miss the music and entertainment world? Yes to some extent, but I have built such strong friendships in the industry that it remains a very strong part of my life. I wouldn't necessarily re-enter the music industry in a formal capacity - Icelandic Glacial is very rewarding and keeps me incredibly busy. Also, I still look forward to relaxing and taking some time off.