When VODAVODA first appeared on our market in 2004, in just three months, it won millions of consumers and a third of the domestic market of bottled water. The water factory stopped operation in the meantime, VODAVODA disappeared from the shelves and the rest of us were deprived of one of the best quality water coming from the natural and healthy environment in Banja Vrujci. For three years now, this brand has been available again for sale and it gradually occupies a place that it used to have on the domestic and foreign markets. With Vojin Djordjevic, we discussed the importance of natural mineral water, which without any artificial filtration and processing is only bottled in the new plant with a striking name “The House of Water”.
EP: Are you satisfied with the comeback of VODAVODA to the domestic market?
Vojin Djordjevic: We are extremely pleased that the results of the achieved sales show a very good trend, although the figures are still not on the profit side. We invested much more than we earned, but I am sure that, due to the special quality of VODAVODA and the beneficial effect on the health of all who drink it, all investments will be returned in the future. We are satisfied that an increasing number of consumers find out about the existence of unspoiled nature and water source owned by Banja Vrujci. It is not necessary to travel to this water spring in order to enjoy this water. Packed in a bottle of VODAVODA, it is available to us at almost all the retail outlets in our country. We are on a good path that has become our obligation and we must not stop.
EP: The promotion of VODAVODA brand is based on water properties from a depth of 605 meters and the absence of its processing. Do you consider the information that water is not being processed but bottled directly, as an important one for the consumers?
Vojin Djordjevic: This information is important for every consumer of bottled water. Such unprocessed water is very rare in Serbia and in the world. When something is created, as we create the world brand VODAVODA, it is necessary to think not only of ourselves but of factors in the process of creation: people, nature, quality, future. Only such a brand is true, durable and, above all, good. We have done everything that VODAVODA is natural: that it comes directly from nature to the consumer and that nature is left untouched. That is the essence. You know, the first contact with water from Banja Vrujci with the outside world is the moment when the consumer opens the bottle of VODAVODA.
EP: What does your team do so that the consumer learns about the quality of VODAVODA?
Vojin Djordjevic: The business strategy of VODAVODA brand is based on well-founded principles that are a sound basis for a quality upgrade. This also applies to the area of water quality that we offer to consumers. The quality of water is not proved by aggressive marketing or large-scale sales, but by science-based certificates, issued by accredited top experts who, on the basis of the detailed analysis, confirm quality. Our team, according to the brand strategy, sent VODAVODA for an analysis to top-level and relevant scientific institutions in our country and in the world, and then, with justified facts, addressed consumers. First of all, we emphasize that VODAVODA is the holder of the world’s most prestigious certificate – NSF. It guarantees to the consumer safety, consistency in the same mineral composition always and superior quality achieved by the highest global standards in the bottling process. This year we have completed another long-term research in our scientific research institution with the highest credibility. As we expected, the results obtained, are exceptional and will soon be officially announced. In science, there are clear parameters for assessing water quality, and there is no mistake.
EP: Can you explain to us what you wanted to say or highlight when you named the plant “The House of Water“?
Vojin Djordjevic: We do not have a water processing factory that processes water, like other brands. We do not use chemicals for water treatment, and we do not have harmful substances that pollute nature, and we recycle the packaging. We do our best for VODAVODA to be the brand with so-called “zero waste”. This is the latest concept of sustainability of a healthy environment, which is no longer enough to create unwanted waste, and then neutralize it, but you must follow the course of nature that prevents the development of an unhealthy substance. That’s why we have been thinking about what to name the production itself for a long time. The usual name for our industry is “factory”, but it was not appropriate for us, because it means machines that change water by using chemicals, and we do not do it. We were not happy with the “bottling plant” designation. It was not until the solemn opening when the priest said: “Today we are happy because we are in this house of water …”, we realized that he said the essence. It is a home that symbolizes everything we want to say to the world – to preserve, nourish, give away and always give birth to water over and over again.
SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE BUSINESS AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
The quality of water is supported by laboratory analysis carried out in international accredited laboratories. Thanks to this, the VODAVODA brand is classified as a significant promoter of environmental protection. The Strategy of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development envisages enabling “The House of Water” to use clean energy. Accordingly, a solar power plant will be installed to obtain heat and electricity. This will completely round up the environmental sustainability of VODAVODA.
EP: Is it easy to preserve this balance between the man and nature?
Vojin Djordjevic: Possibility to master the technology of water bottling with the highest quality process, brings me joy, but also the responsibility. The obligation in “The House of Water” is to use technology in a way that is even more stringent than the one prescribed by law. By using modern methods of preserving nature and the environment, we take care not to jeopardize or disturb its balance.
EP: NFS certificate has enabled VODAVODA to be on the world market as well. Was it necessary to introduce certain technological novelties in “The House of Water”?
Vojin Djordjevic: No, it was not. NSF certificate just confirmed that we did everything in the right way and that we just have to continue doing so. We know that the water we draw from the spring in Banja Vrujci is perfect, with an ideal mineral composition and naturally well balanced. On domestic, but also on the world market, you have the least water that has not been processed. It is a real treasure.
EP: What do you think is crucial for the good placement of such a product on the foreign market?
Vojin Djordjevic: VODAVODA became a hit on all the markets on which it appeared. In Kuwait, where it appeared this year, it provoked a sensation. There are already indications that this will happen again in other countries in the Persian Gulf. Foreign distributors contact us for bottle design. They unquestionably estimate that their customers will first reach for the unique bottle shape on the shelf in the supermarket. Getting to know the composition and natural properties of water is the next step that leads to a lasting relationship with the consumer. Natural mineral waters, such as VODAVODA, are very rare in the world today.
EP: At one time, VODAVODA was better sold on the Taiwan market than the famous Evian water. Do you believe that you will repeat that success?
Vojin Djordjevic: The fact that in 2006 we sold more water in Taiwan than world leader is a proof that consumers reward quality. This is one of the events that motivated me, even when it was most difficult, not to sell the brand VODAVODA and not to leave Banja Vrujci. I was also encouraged by the positive reactions of visitors to fairs and information from the market. I do not give up on the idea that VODAVODA remains unprocessed. I believe that natural quality water with exclusive design has no competition. I do not have a dilemma that VODAVODA will surpass that success in Taiwan.
EP: You have also taken steps that have a positive impact on the development of Banja Vrujci, and the improvement of the lives of its inhabitants. What’s your contribution to the progress in the spa environment?
Vojin Djordjevic: We try to contribute to the development of Banja Vrujci, but it is not appropriate if I talk about it. It is better to ask the people of Banja Vrujci about this. Our most important goal is to preserve and protect the nature of this incredible place. By that, I mean the use of renewable energy sources in the whole Banja and then in the region. In addition, we want people of that region to live in prosperity, peace and spiritual joy. I gave the vow to restore the church Protection of the Theotokos, whose ruins we found during the construction of “The House of Water”. The locals tell me that today they feel the existence of sin because of the demolition of this church after the Second World War. I am convinced that the renewal of the church will bring good to everyone.
EP: About 80% of bottled water from domestic springs is in the hands of foreign companies. In addition to your “The House of Water”, there are only “Heba” in Bujanovac and “Milan Toplica” in Prokuplje, with a few smaller producers in domestic ownership. Do you think we are managing water resources intelligently?
Vojin Djordjevic: Serbia is rich in water resources and has the potential to prudently manage this wealth itself, despite the fact that world trends in water are dictated by multinational companies that own two large sources in our country. For the production and distribution of bottled water, huge investments are needed, the ones that multinational companies have. It is very di cult for the domestic manufacturer to compete with such a strong competition. Empowering domestic production and the availability of bottled water could create a natural balance. Domestic bottled water would outdo the quality of the waters of multinational companies and thus conquer the market, while multinational companies would continue to dominate with their advertising. Our example can help potential new water producers. VODAVODA has achieved competitiveness in the market for water quality and packaging design.
EP: In this regard, there is more and more talk about the sale of spas in Serbia located at the sources of geothermal and mineral water. How could it affect your local community?
Vojin Djordjevic: Spas in Serbia have a long tradition. Their many sources of geothermal and mineral water are known for their healing properties, and the natural environment for centuries have been a subject of admiration. We would all like to have our spas come into the hands of those who will take care of them in a way that their quality deserves so that we are once again proud of the top quality and top service. I believe that the state knows what the interests are and that clear regulation in the process of promoting spa tourism is prescribed.
For me, Banja Vrujci is supreme. Because of its nature and people you just grow fond of the region, it becomes a part of you as if you were born there. We have found a way to contribute to the development of tourism in Banja Vrujci and we want to further improve it as much as possible. VODAVODA performs all of its business communication, not only production, in Vrujci. Guests from abroad, distributors, customers, journalists, all who come to us on business stay in our hotel where we present the beauty of spa tourism. Full of impressions they take to their worlds some of the most beautiful stories about the place where VODAVODA wells up. I would like people from all over the world, not just because of business, but because of the beauty of this region, to come to Banja Vrujci and see where VODAVODA is bottled.
EP: The World Economic Forum recently released warning results of water research from the water supply system on five continents indicating the presence of micro-particles in almost all water samples. No one knows how this will affect people’s health, but it is obvious that the plastic we throw in watercourses, ends up in water supply systems. In your opinion, how can we influence people’s awareness of the importance of preserving watercourses and sources?
Vojin Djordjevic: We should all be aware that water remembers everything, every thrown plastic bag, PET packaging, a discharged chemical. Campaigns to raise awareness precisely serve to inform and encourage people how to dispose of waste properly. They remind us to think of ourselves and of others, as well. Controlled use of products that are unhealthy for nature is only the remedy of consequences, but not the cause of the problem. However, the question arises why, at all, are those products that threaten the nature and the man in it produced. Today’s world is not able to completely and quickly get rid of the production of products that pollute nature. Still, we can be caring. On a personal level, we can take care not to waste the packaging, and on a professional level, factories should act responsibly with waste materials. Continuous campaigns and the availability of a waste disposal sites we make it easier for the individual to be responsible. The legislation, as well as credit facilities for companies, enable the introduction of a system for waste treatment and recycling of packaging.
We are all participants in this global problem and we are all together responsible for the outcome. Therefore, there is no such thing as one man, one source, one river, one country, but our common land and one nature – our planet Earth.