Crystal Clear

Voss Water is bottled and packaged in Vatnestrøm in southern Norway – DB Schenker handles the onward transport all over the world.

 

A white stonemason’s hammer on a lush green background adorns Iveland’s coat of arms. Both symbolize the importance of mining as well as forestry and agriculture in the region.  But the emblem could well do with an addition: a water bottle. For this municipality in Southern Norway is home to Voss. Founded in 1998, the company has pulled off an incredible success story with its purest spring water in stylish bottles – and DB Schenker is now contributing to the continuation of this tour de force.     

Iveland lies 40 kilometers to the north of the port city of Kristiansand. Here, where the dense forests are reflected in its brilliantly dark depths, water is everywhere. Voss Water comes from an aquifer deep beneath a promontory. “Precisely how it gets there is still not entirely clear,” says John Helge Austgulen. He manages the production site, located just over a kilometer from the spring and linked to it via a pipeline. “As the temperature of the water is higher in winter than in summer when it flows from the source, we can assume that it travels over several months.” 

One thing is clear: Voss Water is “artesian”. On its way to the source, where the water is released under its own pressure, it is protected from other water sources and Pollutants by layers of rock. When bottled, it is either left untreated or carbonated. “Our water is so pure that a few years ago a US supervisory authority sent one of their controllers over to test whether it was all above-board,” says Austgulen.

Sales so far exceed 86 million bottles

12,000 PET bottles are filled every hour. Preparations are ongoing to increase capacity to more than 50,000 bottles
12,000 PET bottles are filled every hour. Preparations are on-going to increase capacity to more than 50,000 bottles

The 42-year-old is also the company’s supply chain director, and as such he is responsible for ensuring that more and more of the distinctive cylindrical shaped bottles get to supermarkets, restaurants or nightclubs all over the world. Last year sales exceeded 86 million bottles – almost double the number sold in 2012 and 150 times the amount sold in the year 2000.     

“Almost two-thirds of our production is exported to the US,” says Austgulen. Good publicity for this upscale water also comes from celebrities like Rihanna or Will Smith when they are seen enjoying Voss water in public, making it “their” drink. The Norwegian company even has its headquarters in New York. Furthermore, business in the United Arab Emirates, Great Britain, China and Australia is growing rapidly.     

Austgulen leads us through the production facility, which is divided into three stages. In the first section, bottles are given the distinctive Voss logo and stamped with the nutrition facts. PET bottles are filled in the second section: 12,000 of them every hour. An additional facility with a capacity for 41,000 bottles will be added soon. Section three, with a capacity of 25,000 bottles per hour, is reserved for the glass version. As they travel along the production line, bottles gently but incessantly clink against each other. Employees wear ear    protectors to muffle the noise.

DB Schenker handles the lion’s share of the freight

Since January 2015, DB Schenker has been responsible for transporting the lion’s share of these bottles to more than 50 target markets. Ocean vessels are the number one mode of transport. “Last year we shipped more than 6,500 TEU; and in 2016, we expect the number to increase to 8,000,” says Jarle Gjermundsen Aakredalen, Director of Ocean Freight at DB Schenker in Norway. This is in addition to shipments by truck and a small amount of airfreight. “In the case of ocean freight, we are usually responsible for the cargo up to the destination port. But in Australia, we have also been tasked with the onward transportation to Voss's distributor by truck.” To that end once the containers have arrived Down Under they are stripped and re-packed by DB Schenker staff.      

Aakredalen regularly drives 340 kilometers from his office in Oslo down to Iveland to collaborate with the customer on further developing the services. On these trips, he is usually accompanied by Martin Punsvik. The sales manager from Kristiansand is primarily responsible for arranging the cooperation with Voss. “For example, we are continuously working on a better coordination of transports,” says Punsvik.

This is vital as DB Schenker is also tasked with supplying the production lines with empty glass bottles from Russia and Estonia, with preforms for plastic bottles from Belgium and Sweden as well as with bottle caps from Norway and the Netherlands. Optimally, the arrangement proceeds as follows: a feeder ship carrying empty bottles from St Petersburg docks in Kristiansand, where it immediately takes on containers loaded with Voss bottles to be transported to Antwerp and from there to the United States or other destinations around the world. One    positive effect is that the trucks carrying the containers and driving between the port and the production line are well utilized in both directions.     

“It is particularly important to ensure that the goods get to their target markets quickly,” says Aakredalen. “That is why there is no point choosing a low-cost carrier if that means his ship arrives in Kristiansand on a Thursday and then lies idly at anchor until Monday.” 

This is expertise of the kind valued highly at Voss. “DB Schenker provided excellent support in setting up our supply chain and accomplishes a lot for us on a daily basis,” says the supply chain and plant director John Helge Austgulen. “There is another good reason behind our cooperation: DB Schenker is represented in all of our sales markets.” And for that reason alone, there is plenty of scope for further cooperation. DB Schenker’s global network covers around 140 countries – opening up any number of potential markets for this Norwegian spring water.