In 1989, current Managing Director Stephen Charles Cohen and his late father, Howard, identified that importing bottled water from other countries would be detrimental to the environment. Despite the fact that the term ‘carbon footprint’ did not yet exist, what was immediately visible to the duo were carbon emissions, water miles and piles of non-recyclable glass and plastic bottles. Thus, an idea was conceived which aimed to change the way drinking water was obtained and served in restaurants, hotels, boardrooms and educational establishments across the globe.
At the time, Howard was a restaurateur who had noticed an increased demand for mineral water from his customers following Perrier’s successful ‘eau’ campaign. He was also selling domestic water filters and so had the idea to try to stop importing expensive mineral water and design a homemade system to purify, chill and carbonate water for people to bottle themselves. Stephen was then a stockbroker in the City of London but took the plunge to join the fledgling business with his father.
Vivreau’s Table Water Bottling System is a mains-fed drinking water dispensing system, manufactured in the UK, which dispenses unlimited quantities of filtered chilled still and sparkling water at the point of source and can be served in reusable designer glass bottles. This system is currently in place in thousands of businesses around the world including many university conference rooms.
Vivreau’s designer glass bottles, also manufactured in the UK, are fully reusable and entirely dishwasher safe. These sleek and stylish bottles can be branded and different bottle designs can be chosen to suit a particular décor scheme. Available in 750ml and 425ml sizes, the latter is favoured for optimum eco-friendliness where water wastage can also be reduced.
Pioneered by Stephen and his father, the Table Water Bottling System concept quickly became appealing as a business opportunity, with several large contemporary companies offering Vivreau water to their clients. Effectively, this highlights that Vivreau’s mission to change the face of table water has been extremely successful, and has played a crucial part in increasing sustainability across a range of industries. Vivreau’s values are at the heart of each and every system worldwide.
Dubbed the ‘Eco Warrior’ by peers in the ’90s, Stephen Charles turned his passion into a business opportunity, championing the first-ever Table Water Bottling System as a way of solving a worldwide problem.
“Nobody had ever done this before and we had a very tough audience,” Stephen recalled. “At the time, the mains-fed water cooler industry had yet to make any impact in the UK, coupled with the country just recovering from recession.” Despite this, Stephen and his father, helped by his mother, Sue, doing the books, ploughed ahead with the new venture. They built a machine sourced from components and sold it to a small Indian restaurant in Wembley. In an Apprentice-style move, they took the proceeds from the sale, built and sold two more machines and so on. Now, these systems take pride of place in a range of businesses from five-star hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants to independent schools and universities across the globe.
By the end of the 1990s, Vivreau had become well established in the hospitality industry and turned its attention to the corporate sector. Vivreau began to target some major corporate companies, who were starting to take environmental issues seriously and feeling the pressure from the government to tackle their carbon footprints. Winning contracts with several of these big financial institutions was really the springboard for Vivreau’s success. Stephen recalled: “They were hard contracts to win and it was risky – we sold around £50,000 worth of products to what was then Baring Brothers, and were paid only three weeks before the Nick Leeson affair. That would have been the end of us!”
As well as the corporate and HoReCa sector, Vivreau’s products are working well in the university sector where providers are under pressure to improve their green credentials and keep students hydrated.
Vivreau’s product portfolio does not end at bottling systems. The brand continues to develop new solutions for the supply of purified water, in order to adapt to a variety of commercial requirements, minimising unnecessary environmental costs associated with pre-bottled mineral waters.
The Vi tap was created to address the issue of efficiency, and is capable of dispensing instant boiling hot or chilled still and sparkling perfectly filtered water at the touch of a button, all from one beautifully-designed tap. Possessing sleek aesthetics to complement technologically advanced functions, it is suitable for a range of outlets and establishments due to its small footprint. Robust enough to deal with high demand, with an energy saving option and zero splash, the Vi tap is an asset of efficiency in a multitude of hospitality and corporate environments.
Innovation is at the heart of all of Vivreau’s systems; a value which was central to the creation of LinkLine, which consists of one centrally located Master Control Unit which distributes chilled still or sparkling filtered water to any outlet within a building (over any number of floors), which is re-circulated continuously to eradicate the risk of stagnant water. LinkLine has been proven to be up to 55% more efficient than individual units, as well as up to 45% more cost effective. This idea was soon adopted by a whole host of leading global businesses.
Based in Greenford, just outside London, Vivreau today employs over 70 people, with a further distribution and printing set-up in Barnsley. Stephen stated: “It’s very important to us as a business, and to me personally, to support British manufacture whenever possible.” Aside from its business activities, Vivreau also takes a healthy interest in CSR and charitable activities which helps motivate staff. “We have a wonderful team, who all go the extra mile” Stephen said. “Everyone who works for Vivreau are encouraged to be part of the business and to think for themselves – any suggestions on how to make things better are always welcomed. Wherever possible we offer flexible working, supporting working parents and working from home to enable people to have a life as well.”
Stephen’s aim is to make Table Water Bottling Systems the industry standard around the world. He explains: “I am exceptionally proud of the business and passionate about the company. I truly believe the team here can take us to the next level.”
The company has gone from being a small, privately owned UK company, to a serious international player with operations in North America, South Africa, Australasia and several countries across Europe and are now a key part of the Brita Group.