There’s water, and then there’s water.
Mala and Pramesh Sharma believe that their two natural artesian water offerings, Island Blu and VaiWai, both imported from Fiji, are just the beverages to quench Southern Californians’ thirst.
Island Blu Natural Artesian Water is drawn from a pristine rainforest aquifer under certified organic farm land in Namosi, according to company literature.
The fledgling company, based in Valencia, has been selling water bottled from the couple’s homeland since June. Rajeshni is the company’s owner and Pramesh is CFO. They came to Southern California from Fiji Island 35 years ago.
Island Blu was trademarked just a few months ago. The company’s other brand, VaiWai – “Vai” means water in Polynesian, and “Wai” means water in Fijian – is the same water that comes in Island Blu bottles. The difference is the VaiWai bottle is biodegradable and Island Blu’s is regular plastic. The VaiWai bottle breaks down in as little as nine months. At the moment, the bottle is going through FDA testing to satisfy American regulations, but it’s on the market in Australia, New Zealand and Asia.
While they’ve been making headway in recent times, they’re up against some marketing powerhouses, including Voss and Fiji Water.
“Fiji Water is a one billion dollar industry in America,” said Pramesh. “If we get one percent of that we’ll be happy.”
The company’s website notes that Island Blu and VaiWai’s have a “distinguishing taste and soft texture.”
“(The) source is deep below our tropical rainforest in Fiji. Over 4 meters of rain fall each year to slowly filter down and wait to be bottled.”
Pleass Global Limited bottles water for them in Fiji, and they received their first shipment in June.
“I am very confident that if we had a blindfold test, we would beat Fiji Water hands down,” said Pramesh.
Artesian water comes from a body of permeable underground rock, sand or silt from which water can be extracted. Artesian wells are usually created by drilling down to the body of water. Natural pressure forces the water up to the surface. Island Blu and VaiWai comes from aquifers more than 1,000 feet beneath the ground, said Pramesh.
Prior to this endeavor, neither he nor his wife had marketed water before.
Rajeshni came up with idea to go into business in 2014 when she was laid off from her job.
“So, we looked at what you can import from Fiji, and one was water,” said Pramesh. “It took two years to get the state governmental approval.”
Their staff is small. They have one salesman, and Pramesh helps run the business after hours. He has a day job in the medical business field. He said he and Rajeshni hope one day to be able to employ 50 to 100 people in Santa Clarita.
But getting started is the hardest part.
“As a new brand, large distributors aren’t interested in doing business,” said Pramesh.
Six months ago the company had only had 30 outlets carrying Island Blu. Now they have 350 stores in America. Eighty percent of the stores in Santa Clarita sell it, by Pramesh’s estimate, as do a few places in the Bay Area. The company is now marketing the water in the San Fernado Valley, Pasadena, Oxnard and Glendale.
Local distribution is will go a long way toward helping Island Blu and VaiWai become a success.
“It’s a community business,” said Pramesh. “Hopefully the community can support it.”