Smart Water Filtration Solutions

Clearwater Filter Systems

The company was founded in 1989, the brainchild of co-founders Phil Dash and David Hook, with a focus on supplying filter systems for the home market. The company’s original product was a single cartridge system installed underneath the customer’s sink, but the business quickly expanded into the commercial market, providing water cooler systems for office environments.

Taking hold of the opportunity the founders identified in the commercial market, the company expanded into Brisbane in 1996 and Melbourne in 2001. In 2005, the company was purchased by Just Water International and has been a subsidiary of the New Zealand group since.

Peter Molloy, Clearwater’s General Manager, came to the company from a 22 year stint with Neverfail Bottled Water, a major player in office water coolers in Australia; Peter had been a part of the original management team of that company. “Clearwater has been, for a number of years, a national company,” he explains, “with offices in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, and we also work with a network of plumbing contractors throughout the country.”

Clearwater Filter Systems operates across several segments of the filtered water market, which is organised by particular user groups and their specific needs. Peter identifies three major segments of the broader water market, including tap water, the beverage market in which bottled water competes with staples such as juice, tea, and coffee, and the filtered water market. The latter includes office water coolers, undersink boiler / chiller units, undersink filtration systems, portable filter jug systems, with solutions offered by groups such as Brita; and food service and industrial systems, including food service companies, bars, restaurants, and other large-scale operations.

The company focuses on three distinct product segments. First, it is a major provider of POU, or point of use filtered water cooler systems, which include the type of water cooler devices often seen in offices and other workplaces, and may be plumbed into the existing water supply or filled by customers.

“Second is under sink boiler chiller units,” explains Peter, “which is quite a growth market in new buildings. Older wall mounted boiler solutions have been superseded by new undersink boiler chiller units.” This major growth market is being pushed by consumers’ growing awareness of the importance of water quality, health and wellness concerns, and by architects and builders who often specify under sink units for new developments. These units often include attractive hardware and provide the user with both boiled and chilled water from the same tap.

“The third product segment is the fixed under sink filters, which include one or two stage systems, one or more cartridges and a filter tap above the sink.” The focus of these systems is the removal of potentially harmful chemicals and bacteria from home drinking water. Products range from quite affordable to the more high-tech solutions which can become quite expensive. “They include reverse osmosis systems, which are sophisticated and remove all contaminants and minerals,” explains Peter.

Discussing the growth of the water filter market, Peter suggests that a range of determining factors have pushed consumers toward filter systems. “Interest in water purity is not a new focus,” he says. “People have been concerned for a long time, starting with the bottled water market. There is a general awareness about water quality, but by no means is the whole market aware of, or even interested in the quality of their water. But it is growing.”

Specific events often trigger renewed interest in water quality for consumers, such as the Sydney tap water contamination of the late 1990s; general awareness about the importance of hydration has also gained more of the public mind space in recent years.

Clearwater’s line of products includes a range of office water coolers, including point of use and easy- fill systems. The company also provides under sink boiler systems and is a distributor for Australian owned and operated Billi company. It also provides a range of fixed under sink filter systems with a range of products to suit the particular needs of its customers.

Peter describes Australia’s water market as highly saturated and competitive, with a great deal of service providers vying for a piece of the pie. “We did an exercise recently and found 275 companies listed under ‘Water Filter’ in the Sydney yellow pages, some of which are plumbers, but about 100 of those are actual suppliers of water filtration systems.” In such a competitive market, it is a company’s reputation for quality products and services that allows one to rise above the pack, and Clearwater continues to do just that, with a strong philosophy of personalised support for customers.

Internationally, the battle is between filtered water systems and bottled water providers. “The filtered water market in the last decade has really grown, particularly in the home and office delivered segment of the market,” growth that has been achieved by winning market share from bottled water.

“The reason is fairly simple,” says Peter. “It’s the economics of it; once you have a filter system in place, you’re not buying consumables all the time,” in this case plastic bottles that end up littering Australia’s landscape and making their way into the waste stream and the water system. With a filter system, end users can generate their own high quality drinking water with only simple periodic replacement of filter cartridges, ultimately saving a great deal of money on consumables and reducing the stress on Australia’s waste management systems.

“Our competitive advantage is our ability to say to the market, ‘why spend all your money on expensive bottled water and contribute to the waste stream, when you can put a relatively low cost filtration system in and have an endless supply?’”

The UK market is a good case in point of the growth of the filtered water market, where they have roughly 700 000 water cooler units in use. Ten years ago, POU units numbered about ten per cent of that total number, whereas today it’s closer to fifty per cent, a huge growth in filtered coolers at the expense of bottled water coolers. Some go so far as to predict that bottled water cooler systems will one day go the way of the milkman – they won’t be necessary.

Part of this growth has been encouraged by the development of highly efficient and inexpensive filtration technology, allowing more consumers to experience filtered water than ever before. Clearwater works to encourage new customers by maintaining a strong online presence and by informing potential customers of the health and financial benefits of switching to filtered water systems, though Peter suggests the industry is generally behind when it comes to leveraging online presence, a trend he hopes to change.

“We recently opened up Facebook and Twitter accounts and are doing all the daily stuff to maintain those. We have developed a blog on our website in which we publish articles about water and environmentalism, health and well-being. All things that help bring people to your website and get them interested.”

Apart from having good brand recognition and online presence, the water filtration market works around the development of close working relationships with customers and a high level of quality support, with ongoing annual or bi-annual filter replacements. “If we introduce a new customer, we might sell them a system, and in six months’ time they may need a new cartridge on that system; backup service is very important to our business. We have a very reliable and consistent follow up service with both our commercial and residential customers.”

Clearwater also employs an industry best practise system called “DrinkSafe” which is a trademarked, certified sanitation and hygiene program in which all of the company’s technicians are thoroughly trained, a distinction which separates the quality providers from the fly-by-nighters in the business whose main interest is making a one-off sale. Peter expects that in the future, every home and workplace will have some form of water filtration as it becomes problematic for municipal water suppliers to provide clean and consistent drinking water with growing pressures on the water supply.

Clearwater expects to enjoy continued measured growth as the company works toward informing Australians about the important benefits of filtered water and continues to work toward supplying every home and workplace with high quality water filtration solutions and second to none service and support.

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January 18, 2019, 3:32 AM AEDT