Cambridge in bottled water coup
Cambridgeshire is to produce its own bottled water through a new company established by Cheung Kong Infrastructure, the £4.2 billion owner of Cambridge Water Company and subsidiary of Hutchison Whampoa.
First production at ICENI Waters Ltd in Duxford began at the weekend following a £10 million investment and is expected to build up to as much as 15 million litres in the first year alone, supplying major multiples nationwide. A second line will then be fitted, doubling capacity and allowing production of up to 60 million litres of bottled water every year. ICENI will be independent of sister firm, Cambridge Water Company (CWC), though there will be some shared management, including Martin Greasley, ICENI FD and CWC’s chief financial officer. Work to underpin the company’s launch has been ongoing for almost three years as samples need to be tested over two years first. The firm was registered last year and the site acquired in May at Duxford Grange. Greasley says that as people are increasingly aware of carbon footprint and local produce, the appeal of a locally sourced and bottled water will prove a major incentive to buyers. “Duxford Grange is providing a natural mineral water source so even if you’re buying this in Birmingham, the water is still closer than France,” said Greasley, adding that ICENI Water had already signed contracts with major multiples. “We will be in shops at the end of March and expect to produce between 10 million and 15 million litres in the first year using a single line with a capacity of 30m litres per annum. We’ll also install a second line, which will lift capacity to 60m litres. “We hope that over three years we will be up to capacity and have a return on investment within the first two-three years.” ICENI will use PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) for the bottles, which Greasley says will be “100 per cent recycable.” PET is the most common material used for water bottles and is seen as a practical option over many other plastic applications as its widespread use makes PET bottles more easily identifiable in a recycle stream. ICENI has been set up on the back of a £10m investment, a combination of financing from Cheung Kong Infrastructure (CKI) and Barclays, who also supported ICENI’s lease of the production line and acquisition of the building. CKI acquired CWC in 2004 and is the largest publicly listed infrastructure company in Hong Kong. It is owned by Hutchison Whampoa, a £20bn business which operates the ports of Felixstowe, Harwich and Thamesport. CWC traces its roots back almost 700 years to Franciscan monks who laid a lead water pipe from natural springs on what is now Madingley Road to their monastery. The Cambridge University and Town Waterworks Company was formed in 1853 to supply 600 houses and four colleges. In 1963 it took over the water undertakings of five local authorities and two bulk supply joint water boards and grew to supply most of Cambridgeshire before it changed its name to Cambridge Water Company. Today it supplies 125,000 properties in Cambridge and the surrounding area.