Pure Norway water comes to the United States
Norwegian company strives to make a positive impact on health and the environment
Business and Sports Editor
The Norwegian American
Among the disturbing discoveries by Thor Heyerdahl and crew on the Ra II expedition in 1970 was that ocean pollution was worse than believed. More than 50 years later, it is still a problem, though there is heightened awareness of climate change. Even Ovnerud, Morten Ovnerud, and Øystein Frustøl, shareholders in Pure Norway, found a garbage problem when they visited China and Asia.
“We saw the plastic PT [polyethylene terephthalate] bottles that were in the rivers not being collected,” managing director Even said from Kristiansand. “We researched why. It’s no surprise that when you don’t offer payments for these products and people aren’t educated to return bottles, they won’t deliver them at the deposit places.”
The trio had an idea to produce a flavored energy drink made with the clean waters of Norway and sodium-, sugar- and calorie-free under the name Pure Norway Water AS.
“So, we did deeper research to find out what kind of packaging do people actually deliver back?” said Even. “Wherever you live in the world, you will always be paid for aluminum. Aluminum is a raw material, which is 100% recyclable, which means it can be used over and over again without weakening its character. That’s why we ended up using aluminum as the packaging solution for our water.”
It also gave Pure Norway a two-stage purpose. It donates 1% of its income toward cleaning the garbage and waste from rivers and oceans in the countries they sell their water. In Mumbai, India, they hired local residents to pick up garbage. In the last quarter, more than 10,000 tons of plastic have been collected from rivers, equivalent to more than 2 million PT bottles. Like many Norwegian companies, Pure Norway is striving to have their work align with the United Nations Sustainability Goals.
“We want to be a company that has an impact on people,” said Even. “In our business model, we need to work on separate levels to succeed with the goals that the [United Nations] and the world has set for the future. We want to have a better packaging source and solve some of the waste problem.”
Next, could they make an energy drink for the contents of the aluminum cans that would appeal to people’s tastes if it didn’t have the perceived energy boosts of sugar and caffeine.
The model has come to the United States with the first target quenching the thirst of Minneapolitans.
“We need to drink approximately one-and-a-half liters of water per day,” said Even. “It’s quite interesting to see how the human body works in terms of getting enough water. We get some water from eating. If you get enough water in your body, you get the energy you need.”
They had to break down habits across age groups. Norway also has an advantage.
“We saw the functional market for energy drinks growing really large,” said Ovnerud. “We saw the impact these had, especially in the younger generations. A lot of sugar and coffee products young people are drinking they shouldn’t drink at all. That became a massive problem, especially in Europe, and probably also in the United States.
“We wanted to make a product that was 100% pure with no calories and sugar. There are two elements in water that are very important. One is the pH value that you need. In another source, we have the pH value of 7.1 to 7.3, and that’s the optimal pH value for your body.
“People stress they want a lot of minerals in the water. But if you drink water over a long time, you don’t need many minerals or salt or other ingredients. It’s more important to have clean water and that’s what we offer in Norway. We have only 5.5 million people in this country and a long coastline. We have a lot of untouched nature and that’s the beauty of Norway. You can actually find a lot of nice places where there aren’t a lot of people. We knew Norway had water sources that were so clear, and with a good pH level. We actually could claim this would have a good impact for your body.”
The company is headquartered in Kristiansand, where Even grew up, but being in the southern part of Norway, “it’s the closest connection we have to Europe, important for exporting… we have some really good sources of nature in the region. We have a good ecosystem for creating this.”
The water has a “crispy taste,” said Even. It doesn’t have the seltzer taste. The flavors are Still (pure water without carbonization), Sparkling Ginger and Lemon, Sparkling Green Tea and Peach—very popular—Sparkling Orange, and Unflavored Sparkling Water.
“We created our own machinery together with some engineers to solve how you get still water into cans to make that kind of pressure,” said Even. “We looked into what flavors actually fit with sugar and calorie-free water. It should be 100% pure but should also have a taste. For children and adults, getting them to drink more water by adding some tastes also gets them to consume more.”
Behind Even was a display ad with a Smurf character, a campaign aimed at children.
“We are making a commercial with the Smurfs to educate children about having better drinking habits and what sustainability means,” said Even.
The company, at one time the top retailer in Norway and Scandinavia, started out making backpacks with linen and real leather that lasted a long time, making them sustainable. Now, they have added the water, thermoses, lunch boxes and children’s backpacks, “for the outdoor, mountaineering life.”
The Norway House Business Accelerator Resource Network (BARN) in Minneapolis aided Pure Norway’s entry into the United States.
“The consumption rates in the [United States] are the highest in the world in terms of buying water,” said Even. “This is a great place to be in terms of sales. This is the next step for our company. We now have a lot of people in the [United States] to just see which market is the perfect match for us. We’re aiming at Minneapolis (now) where we know there’s a strong Scandinavian heritage. BARN was very helpful. It’s a long tradition, like your newspaper. It’s great for us to be with the people who know the story, who have a passion for Norway and understand all the great values of this country.”
This article originally appeared in the Feb. 18, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.