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WALTHER JUNGHANNS AGUA DE MESA JUNGHANNS

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PUEBLA, Mexico-Walther Junghanns began delivering water by accident. His family business exporting water purification filters was virtually wiped out after the 1990 invasion of its main client, Kuwait. But he decided to use his water experience in a different way and began a service delivering drinking water directly to residences in Mexican towns.

Four years later, Agua de Mesa Junghanns boasts 80,000 clients in 18 cities. And with larger competitors copying the delivery and service style he has pioneered in Mexico, 30-year-old General Director Walther Junghanns can claim to have changed the way Mexicans think about their drinking water.

"Water should be free," says the young entrepreneur from Puebla, about one hour's drive from Mexico City. "If people are willing to pay for water, then they're not buying water, they're buying confidence. Confidence is the base of marketing."

Typically, Mexicans buy bottled water in five-gallon unlabeled jugs from neighborhood delivery trucks without any guarantee of the purification process. The delivery man generally pulls up at the corner at a random time and shouts "agua" to whomever happens to be home.

Mr. Junghanns figured that Mexicans would be willing to pay as much as a $2 premium, or about $3.50 per jug for regular weekly delivery, comprehensive labeling and follow-up service. Mr. Junghanns is expecting sales of his table water to grow again this year by about 50% to about $17.5 million.

Although the company has done some limited outdoor, radio and newspaper advertising, created in-house, Mr. Junghanns' strategy is to rely on neighborhood canvassing and telemarketing to increase his water's presence. The company, which has budgeted about $900,000 for marketing for the 12 months starting last month, sets up stands in shopping malls and asks clients to recommend other customers. Agua de Mesa Junghanns also sponsors sports, mainly tennis and golf, and cultural events and targets clients, such as hospitals or upscale restaurants, that will help its positioning. Next year, he plans to add new products, such as "new age" beverages.

Mr. Junghanns, who has a master's degree in ecology, has tapped into a burgeoning environmental and health consciousness in Mexico. When he chose a whale as the company's logo, his timing was perfect. "Four years ago people didn't think about whales, but we bet on the idea of the whale becoming a beloved animal." The bet paid off.

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