Interview - Free Is Better
Free water sounds like a no brainer really, but why isn't it a thing?
If you haven't yet heard of Free Is Better, it's basically a new model for providing the public with free bottled water. Which, when you think about it, shouldn't be as ridiculous a notion as it's become. The team at Free Is Better is working to make that a reality, but we'll let Hwi So from Free Is Better explain it better:
Tell us about a bit about your idea and how you came up with it.
Truthfully, this all started because we were complaining. Every time any of us bought a bottle of water, we felt ripped off. We pay loads of money for a bottle of something that’s fundamental human right – a necessity, even. We felt bottled water was a bit of a silly concept that is so widely accepted by our generation. Who hasn’t ever gone to the cinemas or a sporting event and thought “wow that’s ridiculous to pay that much for a bottle of water”?
I had been working in the ad industry for a few years so I researched how in Japan they have these packets of pocket tissues that come with advertising on them that they hand out for free.
Now because of the success of this type of advertising there’s actually so many of these being given out that you actually can’t purchase these pocket tissues anywhere anymore. So that was the point where we got the vision that maybe this is something that could be applied to bottled water.
What is currently wrong with the bottled water industry?
Australians are spending $600 million dollars a year on bottled water, something that should be absolutely free. I think that is what’s wrong with the bottled water industry. Because we see the bottled water industry being so profitable, there’s a new bottled water brand popping up every week with a cliche marketing spin on why their water is the best. Maybe they have a nicer shaped bottle or their packaging comes in different colours to suit your mood, but we just find these be companies jumping on the bandwagon and milking the industry for what it is. We find this to be amusingly ridiculous.
But what’s not funny is the fact that people are actually being ‘suckered’ and buying in to these ‘drink positive’ campaigns. Like $4 for a 600ml of positive water? Do you want a can of positive air with that for an extra $8? It’s just ridiculous, and people still buy it because it’s convenient and competes as a healthy alternative to sugary drinks on store shelves. Tap water isn’t a real solution with the facilities we currently have and not everyone bothers to carry a reusable water bottle. Free Is Better exists to solve a problem that shouldn’t have existed in the first place.
How have you managed to 'sell' water for free?
Our business model allows consumers to drink our water for free by selling advertising space on our labels to offset the production costs. Our revenue stream comes from selling advertising, as opposed to making money on the actual sales of bottled water.
The same way that television, radio and newspapers are expected to be free by the Australian public, I believe that bottled water can be viewed the same way and I want Australia to be the first place to really lead the way with this innovation.
Your bottles are eco-friendly - tell us a bit about that.
At the end of the day, we want to be responsible to mother nature, as she is giving us the water. We know that we’re still providing plastic, but with a difference. We’ve put some real thought into what we’re doing. We use recycled plastic within our bottles and to go a step further we’ve also discovered this special ingredient that helps breaks down our bottles in 10 years rather than every other PET bottle that breaks down in 1000 years.
We’re always going to be on the hunt to find the most sustainable option for mother nature as we plan to be around for a long time.
We are now starting to look at bottles that are plant based, using labels that are made from recycled materials, printed with soy ink, treated with beeswax to make them waterproof. It’s still in the early stages, but nonetheless we are proactively researching these kind of things during our spare time.
What social changes are you hoping to bring about in the future?
Our vision is to ultimately challenge the perception that bottled water is something you should pay for. We want to change the consumer behaviour in that sense.
The bottled water industry is not going anywhere. In Australia alone it is a $600 million a year industry that is continuing to grow at 8% annually. Worldwide Coca Cola has just reported that they believe their bottled water sales will overtake their soft drink sales within the next decade, and I think it’s our job to make sure that it doesn’t happen.
We imagine not everyone is going to be too enthused with the idea - what kind of opposition or hurdles have you faced thus far to the project?
On the consumer side, we are aware we may very well see environmental backlash from some. We want to acknowledge this and proactively think of environmentally friendlier alternatives for the longevity of the business. This is also something that’s important to us, a lynchpin for our success. However, there’s always going to be environmentalists who are misinformed about our bottles, or have unrealistic ideas about changing the consumer behaviour surrounding bottled water.
On the business model end of things, we are working to create stronger materials to prove the effectiveness of our advertising medium. We’ve been developing a sustainable distribution model that can consistently provide the Australian public with free bottled water. After all, if it’s not consistent then we’re not really affecting consumer buying habits of bottled water. We’ll be rolling out this new stockist model in June so stay tuned! It’s going to be a game changer!
What are the next steps for your idea? Do you plan to target the international market?
Once we roll out the new permanent distribution model with partnered stockists, where we will constantly supply consumers with bottled water at static locations, we will duplicate the process interstate and internationally. We’re already in talks with international contacts so yes, we definitely do plan to target international markets! We’ll announce more news on this as we go.
How can people help out?
People can help out by simply spreading the word! Support us, and next time you catch yourself or someone you know buying a bottle of water, let them know Free Is Better! Instagram us, tweet us, hit us up on Facebook, all that jazz. Also, if people want our stickers, they can request us to send them a care package - just hit us up through our website or any of the mentioned social media channels.
For more info and ways to help out, hit up Free Is Better on their: