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This article was published 5/7/2018 (414 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Canada has abundant and pristine water and everyone knows that, yet it's not a major player in the bottled water market.
An investor who recently emigrated from China hopes to change that.
John Fu has opened a $1.45 million bottling and beverage plant in the CentrePort Canada foreign trade zone surrounding the Richardson International Airport.
Fu's new company, Eautopia Biological Technology, already has an order for five freight containers of bottled water for China. Their new water product out of Manitoba, called Icy Blue, will be available in major cities in China, he said.
"We're going to export over half of our product," Fu said, through interpreter, Li Zhao, the company's supply chain manager. The Asian market will be targetted as well as the Caribbean and United States.
"We want to see a Canadian brand in the world market. There are many famous water brands but none of them come from Canada," Fu said.
"We want to see a Canadian brand in the world market. There are many famous water brands but none of them come from Canada"- John Fu
Fu, 39, hopes to trade on his 18 years in the beverage industry in China. Because of that experience, he already has the distribution channels.
He arrived under the provincial nominee program business class in February, 2017. Under the business class, an investor is required to invest a minimum $250,000 in an urban area, or $150,000 in a rural area.
Eautopia obtains its water for its Icy Blue brand from an aquifer known for its high quality water located near Marchand, 80 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg.
"Even in Winnipeg, many people don't know about the high-quality water in Marchand," said supply chain manager, Zhao. Fu has been in negotiations with Canadian Gold Beverages in Marchand to buy its plant but those talks have stalled.
Fu said he will have a second location at a cost of $4-$5 million that will include the capability to make glass bottles. Eautopia (pronounced Oh-TOE-pee-ah) will probably open the second location later this year or early next year, he said.
Eautopia is both a bottle maker and beverage maker, and a private labeller, as well as a specific bottle shape to promote a company's brand. For example, its bottling line could appeal to beverage makers including microbreweries. It also sells bottling equipment imported from China and Germany.
Its new plant is designed to produce 10,000 bottles per hour. That includes blowing the bottles, rinsing them, filling them and capping them. No human hands touch the product.
That's the kind of production capacity reserved for big players like Pepsi and Coke, said Rene Lamoureux, a veteran in the water bottling business who is acting as a consultant to Eautopia.
As well, employees have to pass through a UV shower before entering the plant. The ultraviolet light kills microbes. "Coming from Asia, quality control is a real concern. That's an extra step Eautopia is taking," said Lamoureux.
Fu chose Winnipeg partly because of CentrePort and the infrastructure the inland port offers. It allows his company to access rail and truck transport to get his product to port or continental markets. As a non-perishable product, Eautopia does not have to pay for more expensive air transport.
CentrePort helped him secure a location and make contacts in the business community, as well as navigate through the regulatory process.
Fu plans to develop new beverages, including pre-biotics as health and energy drinks, but with natural ingredients that promote good bacteria balance in the gut.
"Different grains have different functions. Some of them release energy slowly so you won't be hungry as fast," said Zhao.
One of his ideas would make a health drink using mushrooms, a fungus, and another using ginseng, again to promote a health balance of bacteria in the stomach.
"There's a huge demand for alternative beverages," said Lamoureux. That market includes waters and beverages targetting breakfasts and children's diets.
In the short term, Eautopia is also planning an Icy Kold water product packaged in less expensive plastic and a mix of spring water and filtered tap water, similar to those family packs of 24 plastic bottles of water sold in supermarkets.
Its first facility in CentrePort will employee 15 to 20 people, Fu said.
The tubes and various bottle shapes they can manufacture are on display in their new facility's lobby, as are bottles of Icy Blue.
"John wants our team to push this brand to the world in the next five years, to make a worldwide Canadian brand product," said Zhao.
Bill Redekop has been covering rural issues since 2001.
Updated on Friday, July 6, 2018 at 4:27 PM CDT: Clarifies Eautopia obtains its water for its Icy Blue brand from an aquifer known for its high quality water located near Marchand.
7:01 PM: Fixes error in photo captions