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Cambodia’s first natural mineral water

Source:Ringier Food

Date Published:9/19/2018 01:09:58 AM

Cambodia’s Eau Kulen brand is riding the health consciousness trend, writes JONEL GUITTAP.  

ONE bottled water brand winning over consumers in Cambodia is Eau Kulen, the country’s first natural mineral water launched only five years ago.  

“Eau Kulen contains natural minerals such as calcium, magnesium, bicarbonates, potassium and sodium, that are very good for the health,” said Dr. Jacques Marcille, general director of Kulara Water Co. Ltd., the makers of Eau Kulen. “None of the minerals comes in excessive amounts, which means that the water can be consumed daily to fully quench one’s thirst.”

Dr. Marcille points out that some brands sold in Cambodia and marketed as pure drinking water, are produced using reverse osmosis making them mineral content-free. Many Cambodians have been used to drinking this so-called pure drinking water which doesn’t contain any minerals, he added.

“Only the well-off can afford to drink imported mineral water, which costs as much as three to four times. Our aim was to produce natural Cambodian mineral water sold at a price affordable for everyone, and with comparable quality to the best international brand names.”

Dr. Jacques Marcille, general director of Kulara Water Co. Ltd, producer of Eau Kulen mineral water in Cambodia,

Dr. Jacques Marcille, general director of Kulara Water Co. Ltd, producer of Eau Kulen mineral water in Cambodia.

“The first thing we did was to explain to Cambodians what natural mineral water is, its health benefits on infants, children, pregnant women and more broadly to the working people. They say that athletes feel much less tired after drinking mineral water. Also, a number of Cambodian and expatriate doctors helped us get this message across to their patients and their families,” said Dr. Marcille.

“We’ve also seen good results when we promoted Eau Kulen in restaurants and hotels. Most food and beverage managers are aware of the health benefits of a good mineral water. They appreciated not only the good taste of Eau Kulen but also its quality. Today our brand is available in most restaurants and hotels in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.”

Analysts estimate that the Cambodian bottled water market is about 500 million litres and is seen to increase at a rate of 5% to 10% in the coming years.

Back in 2008 there was no local production in the country and the bottled mineral water brands sold in the Kingdom were all imported either from Europe or the neighboring countries such as Vietnam and Thailand.

Finding the ideal source

In one of the accounts of Bernard Forey, the founder of Kulara Water, the idea to produce bottled mineral water in the Kingdom came one day when he was with his son, who is a pilot, surveying aerially for possible plantation sites. They flew over Phnom Kulen, a mountain in northeastern Cambodia, where they saw a waterfall at the top of it and Mr. Forey said that they must try to find water at the foot of the mountain.  

 “We were aware of the historical significance of Phnom Kulen for Cambodians. The limestone quarried there was used to build the famous Angkor Wat temple and many others. Those mountains were also the cradle of the great Khmer civilization during the Angkor era,” said Dr. Marcille. “When he got back home from his flight, Mr. Forey said to me “Jacques, that’s the place to go to look for our mineral water”.”

Hydrogeologists recognise that water-permeable limestone is an excellent natural filter.

“The limestone formations in the area are marine deposits, so we could well imagine that minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and silica, which are abundant in planktonic organisms (plankton, diatoms), would also be present in significant quantities. Those criteria were essential in our final choice to do more prospecting in that region,” revealed Dr. Marcille.

“Also, the fact that the forest-covered Mount Kulen is right in a recognised and protected flora and fauna reserve (Kulen National Park) was the overriding factor in our choice. There is no intensive agriculture going on throughout the forested area, so there is no runoff of pesticides or other agriculture pollutants. A foremost consideration was to stay away from any water contaminated by pesticides.”

The company then conducted a comprehensive geological survey around the foothills of Mount Kulen. Of the over 400 samples they analysed, they found that the water deep under the mountain contained ideal mineral content with no traces of pesticides.

Bottling at the source with European technology

“Eau Kulen is bottled at the source in a state-of-the-art bottling plant that utilises the latest European technology,” said Dr. Marcille. “No chemical treatment is used in order to preserve the fine taste and health benefits of this pure natural mineral water. Permanent control of quality is made in a well-equipped laboratory.”

He further stressed that their GMP and HACCP technical audits are carried out regularly by an internationally-recognised firm.

Eau Kulen is bottled at the source in a state-of-the-art bottling plant that utilises the latest European technology.

Eau Kulen is bottled at the source in a state-of-the-art bottling plant that utilises the latest European technology.

Open for viewing

In their hope to educate Cambodians on how a high-quality bottling plant should be like, the company’s plant is open to visitors. “The plant was designed in such a way that visitors can follow the whole process and see for themselves the extreme quality and cleanliness of the place,” explained Dr. Marcille. “In Siem Reap, we regularly host school tours for all age groups. A large separation window allows them to see everything without any risk of contamination.”

Helping the environment

When asked why Eau Kulen is not packaged in glass since plastic bottles are just thrown away by people and become a nuisance, Dr. Marcille explained that “there is no glass recycling in Cambodia while PET throwaway bottles are collected almost entirely.”

In Cambodia discarded plastic bottles are compressed into bales and exported to Vietnam or China.

“Particularly in China, it is used as a raw material for manufacturing fibres used in garments and for many other things. Many Cambodians, often the poorest of the poor, still make a living from collecting and selling PET bottles. To recycle glass, it has to be heated up to 1600 degrees. To recycle PET material 300 degrees is hot enough. So it takes five times more energy to recycle glass,” explained Dr. Marcille.

“At a time when global warming has become a buzzword, concern for the environment would actually mean avoiding the import of energy-greedy products from the other side of the world. As for me, I think that if we really want to optimise our ecological footprint in Cambodia, we are better off promoting local products and jobs.”

To limit the environmental impact of Eau Kulen bottles, the company also decided to stop using seals, which are plastic protectors that go over the caps.

 “They will be phased out because they do not lend themselves to recycling. All the big European mineral water brands have done away with them and some local non-mineral brands are also starting to do so,” he said.

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