Centro Europeo di Ricerca Acque Minerali (Ceram), the independent European centre for European water research based in Naples, recently awarded its first European Mineral Water Quality prize to Spadel, the leading Belgian bottled water company.
Rather than being seen as a competition, the newly created European Mineral Water Quality prize from Ceram should be regarded as an important platform to encourage quality and excellence in the drinking water industry. Based on principles set by the European Federation of Quality Management (EFQM), the contest covers all bottled waters available in the European retail market with the central objective of promoting the best quality hydrological resources among them every two years.
It should come as no surprise that Spadel scooped victory in the first ever Ceram competition for bottled water. The undisputed market leader in the Benelux countries has been bottling and exporting throughout Europe for more than 500 years. Spadel waters are popular in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg and the company’s mineral waters are marketed under three brands: Spa Reine (still), Spa Barisart (sparkling) and Spa Marie-Henriette (lightly sparkling).
The award of the prize to Spadel is the result of a comparative scientific study carried out by Ceram’s Scientific Committee composed of industry and university experts. Between August 2006 and 2008, the group studied 18 performance indicators from four categories:
To receive mineral water status in Belgium, many conditions must be met, as seen below.
Conditions for gaining mineral water accreditation in Belgium:
(Source: FIEB: Royal Belgian Water and Soft Drinks Federation)
In addition to meeting these strict requirements, Spadel in Belgium is proud of two additional characteristics of its waters: their very low mineral composition and the history of the thermal baths in the city of Spa.
The bottled water Spa purifies the body, yet doesn’t add extra minerals. The water contains total dissolved solids of 33mg per litre, which is suitable for low-sodium diets and consumption by infants.
While the high iron content isn’t kept into the drinking mineral water for reason of taste and clarity of appearance, it’s an essential ingredient for Spa’s thermal activities. The healing advantages of iron are well known since Roman times.
Last but not least, some Spa water wells are naturally carbonated. Hence, only the Spa Reine is still while the other two variants come out of the wells naturally carbonated (though the gas is removed, filtered and re-injected for stability reasons).
The Belgian water company’s water source is located in the Fagne Ardennaise, with a protected zone of nearly 14,000 hectares. This is considered to be the largest natural protected land in Europe owned or managed by a bottled water company.
Originated from rains and melted snows, the water drains into the soil through a thick vegetation layer and emerges into a series of multiple springs. Careful environmental protection of the springs is implemented by the business.
First, the perimeter of the springs benefit from enhanced protection to prevent possible risks of modification of the springs. Secondly, only the renewable parts of the water sheets are used for consumption in order to preserve the spring for the long-term.
Finally, unique water and forest management requirements have been enforced: planting a right balance between trees and thorns, alternatives to snow salt for roads and environmentally monitored car parking zones.
Environmental protection has been high on the agenda of the Spadel Group for more than 100 years. In this family owned group, R&D is also part of their DNA.
Back in 1988, Spa was one of the market leaders in bottled water to switch from PVC bottles to PET. For the last 10 years, all Spa Reine PET bottles have been manufactured with 25% content of recycled materials. This has enabled a significant proportion of virgin material to be reused.
Additional examples of best environmental practice include:
The Spadel group has always committed itself to ‘responsible marketing practices aligned with leading actual issues’. The fight against obesity and the importance of hydration are supported by a wide variety of bottle formats and a large choice of waters. Spa water products come in a very large choice of formats, packaging types and convenience options.
Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives have not been neglected and include water supply projects in Mexico and Chile. The Spa Foundation also supports scientific research in the field of water.
Finally, the Henrijean Laboratory Institute is a reference for hydro geological competencies far beyond Belgian borders.
“For the future generations, it’s our duty to protect the original purity of these springs,” says Marc du Bois, CEO of the Spadel Group. “Guaranteeing the original purity of our natural mineral water is a duty towards the generations to come. This is our vision of sustainable development.”
Dominique Huret is associate director of Cape Decision, a packaging design and communication specialist based in Belgium, that has supported the Spa brand.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020