Cdr. Bud Slabbaert

In an earlier commentary, I gave an overview of a missed opportunity: Dominica failing to sell water. It is an opportunity to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to the country’s budget. Money that the country needs. Yet, Dominica’s fluid gold is still unexploited.

If you want to catch up with that commentary, you will still find it here: COMMENTARY Dominica’s fluid gold still unexploited It is in essence about a contract to collect 3 billion gallons of fresh water annually, market it and ship it in bulk. Let’s make a simple calculation and look at what it would mean in dollars and cents. You’ll be amazed.

3 billion gallon = 3,000,000,000 x 3,78 = 11,340,000,000 liters. If the government of Dominica would only get 1 single cent per liter of that bulk water, it would receive 113,400,000 $ or to say it simple 113 million dollars. Exaggerated? Too much? Ok then take half of it which is still 55 million.

As a comparison, and having no other revenue source to calculate with, do you know how many CBI passports need to be sold to come to that amount?  113,000,000 : 100,000 = 1,130.  Let’s go one step further, the contract was for 10 years. So, pure theoretically the country misses out on 1,130 million dollars over that period or it would have to sell 11,300 passports as an alternative.

You want a new international airport but don’t have the money? If it costs 300 million dollars it could be fully paid for in 2 ½ years with the water money.

I ended my essay by stating that a blame game might start. And one could indeed wonder whether not enough effort was put into realizing this. Or, not the right strategy was chosen. Or, not the right people were handling it. Or, the wrong partner was chosen. Or, maybe the bulk water approach was wrong all together and one should have looked into the possibility of bottling the water in Dominica and then distribute it.

In the past, I was invited to a reception by the Ambassador of Fiji in Brussels, Belgium. He showed me a sample of tea from his country and asked me if it was something that could be marketed well. I pointed out to him that if it was sold in bulk, it is a commodity. People in Fiji would get very little for it when it gets on the commodity market. Dealer and mediators and brokers would make the real money and profits. However, if people in Fiji would handmake little bags or baskets for the tea and add a little card hanging from a string telling a little bit about cultivating the tea and the country of origin, then all of a sudden it becomes “boutique tea”; something very special that is sold at a higher price. Not only the local tea plantation would benefit, but also the people who hand-make the little bags or baskets. Thus, it would create an additional “home-industry”.

If Dominica sells water in bulk, it is a commodity and it is nothing else than just H2O in huge tanks. If Dominica water comes in bottles, then the whole story changes and marketing gurus could add value and increase the price that Dominicans could charge. Non-traditional methods of marketing and having a very distinct positioning may lead to high end pricing.

Marketing gurus will create a brand so strong that even on Dominica you would not want to drink anything else anymore because they will convince you that their bottled water tastes so much better than anything else. They will position it as ‘Dominican Wellness Water’, ‘Dominican Energy Water’, ‘Dominican Nature Lifestyle Water’, ‘Dominican Exotic Water’. They will tell you that Dominican natural untouched water has a rejuvenating taste, or that it has a smooth, silky mouthfeel. Smart marketers can turn regular water consumers into water connoisseurs.

“Mineral water from a volcanic island with 365 rivers and waterfalls that flows over ages old volcanic rocks in an untouched natural environment’”, sounds great, or ‘Natural wellness water that dissolved minerals and trace elements from the volcanic rocks and has healing effects’, may sound even better.

Germany has over 500 mineral springs and about 40 curative springs. Germany also has tab water of the highest quality and standards. Yet, Germans prefer to drink bottled spring water because of the minerals that it contains. Many years ago, when I studied Economy in Germany, I needed to make some money on the side. I became a part time sales representative and started to sell mineral water. I went to bars, cafes and restaurants, and was able to get some orders although these establishments already had a mineral water brand. The brand that I represented was Apollinaris, internationally well known as the ‘Queen of Table Waters’. The brand, the quality and the reputation were the trick for success.

Don’t think that I’m trying to set up a business venture in Dominica. I’m only providing you with food for thought. If you have an interest in selling bottled Dominican water, just go to the Google search engine, insert the key words: ‘mineral water marketing water’. The result will be multiple business plan formats and templates that you can use freely, studies to give you guidance and inspiration, etc.

To conclude my case, let it be carved in your mind that water from Dominica is a solution and not an alternative and that if you are passionate about a leading an active and healthy lifestyle, drink better and live better with water from Dominica!


Cdr. Bud Slabbaert is a regular contributor to an extensive number of media outlets in the Caribbean from the Bahamas to Curacao to Barbados and various islands in between. Mr. Slabbaert’s background is accentuated by business development, strategic communication, and journalism