Free is better? Melbourne company announces ambitious plans to revolutionise bottled water industry

A Melbourne company has ambitious plans to revolutionise the bottled water industry – by making bottled water free.

The new brand, Free Is Better, only hit the streets across Melbourne in late 2013, but has a goal of wiping out the existing bottled water market.

“Our vision is to ultimately change the bottled water industry,” marketing director Hwi So tells Marketing Magazine.

“In Japan, they have these packets of pocket tissues, which come with advertising on them, and they’re handed out for free around train stations… because of that, you can’t actually buy pocket tissues anywhere in Japan.”

Free Is Better works in the exact same way – by selling the label space on its bottles to advertisers, at high enough rates to eliminate production and logistical costs, thereby passing the product onto the consumer for free, and scoring a tidy profit.

The brand has yet to find shelf space next to the established supermarket brands. For the moment, it is targeting a small gen-y audience of “forward thinking, innovative trendsetters”, stocking in designer boutiques and partnering with creative industry events. Whether it will knock out existing competition is yet to be seen.

Both high costs and environmental concerns that come with bottled water have plagued the industry in recent years, leading to a push back towards tap water. Like others on the market, Free Is Better, looks to minimise its impact on the environment by using bio-degradable plastics. But wouldn’t free bottled water only create further disposability of plastic bottles and encourage wastage?

So acknowledges the environmental impact but argues that bottled water faces an unfair amount of scrutiny compared to other bottled drinks – “It’s one of the least energy consuming things to produce. There’s a lot of scrutiny surrounding bottled water because it’s a product that should be free anyway…people realise it shouldn’t really exist.”

“There’s a lot of things pushing people to use reusable bottles, which we definitely encourage, but that doesn’t solve the issue of convenience of buying bottled water, which competes with other drinks on shelves.”

While Free Is Better bills itself as a social movement, wanting to change consumer behaviour around water, it pulls no punches about its operations ­- “we’re not a charity at the end of the day. We are a business, trying to make a dollar out of this.”

BY Emma Do ON 22 April 2014
  • Russell Mel

    Hello, Is there any way I can contact ‘Free is Better’ for their product to be provided at an upcoming Melbourne Festival in November 2016? Thank you. Their website has no ‘tab’ for ‘Contact’ re emailing them.