How to Flow: Unbottling in Omnichannel

How to Flow: Unbottling in Omnichannel

According to the Wall Street Journal, North American sales of bottled water have surpassed sales of soda. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Changing consumer tastes and the continued demand for health and wellness products are significant drivers for this $15 billion industry.

Do I need to mention that the bottled water category is crowded at-retail both online and in-store? Nope, you know.

In this blog, I tell the tale of Canada’s Flow Water from a packaging professionals point of view. Their unique Omnichannel marketing approach in a crowded marketplace is a fabulous packaging innovation and business story!

(This blog is written from a packaging professional point-of-view.)

I attended a plant tour of the Flow Water production facility in Aurora and listened to Nicholas Reichenbach, founder, and CEO of Flow Water tell the tale of Flow!

It’s a great story. Their management team is stunningly smart and, their advisors include former Loblaw and Fuji water executives, amongst an impressive who’s who of consumer goods.

What struck me about Flow Water was the business development journey and the partnerships Flow embraced early on to accelerate success. Partnerships with retailers such as Whole Foods and their suppliers such as Tetra Pak stand out. Their strategic partnership with Tetra Pak is very obvious. The production floor is decorated with the Tetra Pak logo and equipment. They even wooed a Tetra Pak executive to join their team.

Now, I’ve seen Flow Water at-retail, online, and on mobile, over the past several years (that’s Omnichannel working at its best!) I’ve also received their 500mL water at a few golf tournaments.

Did I drink the Flow Water? Yes, I was golfing and quite thirsty.

Was it good? YES, it was clean tasting and refreshingly Canadian!

(And yes, after I drank it I tossed it in the recycling bin.)

At-retail, their product packaging is quite disruptive in a cluttered me-too bottled water category.

It’s not a bottle.  It stands out! Why? It’s different.

Packaging is an important consumer touch-point and marketing lever. No other lever is opened, closed, read, and touched more than product packaging!

Leverage the power of packaging! Differentiate.

It’s quite refreshing to hear a Canadian talk about an Omnichannel marketing strategy that leads with product packaging!

Here’s what I learned on the tour:

Canadian recycling rates are 57% for their Aseptic container. Not bad!

Apparently, Canadian PET bottle recycling rates are slightly higher, depending on the region and facility you are comparing their number with.

And, according to the numbers Flow showed, as of November 17th, their 500 mL tops the UPSPW (units per store per week) charts beating out Evian and Fuji.

It’s a success story! Here’s how it happened (from my point of view as described during the plant tour):

Insight #1 Retailers such as Whole Foods helped Flow grow.

It’s clear that the partnership with Whole Foods was a pivotal distribution lever for Flow Water, helping Flow connect with premium target market buyers. Specifically, women and those in pursuit of health and wellness.

Insight #2 Social media played a significant role in Flow’s success.

Their early storytelling on social media leveraged an anti-PET message amongst others, attracting environmentally conscious followers on Facebook, Instagram, and to a lesser extent, Twitter. To the tune of now 200 million impressions in 2 years. WOW!

Flow leverages its packaging format to stand out from the crowd.

Screen Shot 2017-11-22 at 4.07.07 PM

(Photo taken from @flowwater Instragram)

Insight #3 In the case of flow, the package is the product, literally.

It’s made from TetraPrisma, an Aseptic carton package that is roll-fed and when erected, octagonal in shape.

The body of the Flow vessel is comprised of packaging layers (aluminum and paperboard) sandwiched between Polyethylene. Here’s a visual from the Tetra Pak slide:

flow water, Aseptic container, bottled water, Tetrapak

100% PET free and BPA free.

According to Flow:

  1. 70% of the packaging comes from a renewable resource, the highest in the industry.
  2. Thinner than an eggshell, they use just enough material to keep the packaging stable.
  3. The closures are BIO-based and also known as Dreamcap and Helicap made from sugar cane derivative materials.

One of the marketing challenges of an Aseptic package is that the product inside cannot be seen. According to Nicholas, the Aseptic visual barrier did not hold Flow back at all. In fact, they conducted research that showed their target consumers were more interested in the brand history and brand values than seeing the water inside.( And what do you see when you look at water anyway. It’s clear!)

Best of all Flow water is a Canadian alkaline spring water locally sourced using fully sustainable practices.

It tastes good!

Oh, and I should mention:

Flow is B CORP certified and meets the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance.

Flow ticks all the boxes of a good Omnichannel story.






They are doing it right. It’s a force for the good!

Go with the Flow!


How does your consumer brand differentiate and engage consumers in today’s Omnichannel environment? We’d love to hear your story.

Oh, and a little bit about me. Karen Blumel Consulting Inc. is a firm specializing in Omnichannel packaging and social media marketing services.

PS – Flow Water is not a project I worked on.

I love blogging about the power of consumer packaging excellence and differentiation.

Be well,