The faucet looks futuristic, like something straight out of the Starship Enterprise. When Markus Hankammer presses the blue buttons, refrigerated water comes out – either non-carbonated or sparkling.
And when Mr. Hankammer, the chief executive of water filter maker Brita GmbH, presses the red button, a light flashes and hot water (heated to 98 degrees Celsius, or 208 degrees Fahrenheit), already filtered and decalcified, pours into his teacup. Brita, a family-owned company based in Taunusstein near Frankfurt, has set out to revolutionize the art of drinking water.
“Everyone will design his or her own water in the future,” predicts Mr. Hankammer, the son of the company founder. In the future he envisions, individual consumers will be able to add vitamins and minerals to filtered tap water as they see fit.
BWT, a Brita competitor from Austria, already sells a filter that adds magnesium to water. Although Brita is considered the market leader for home water filtration products, it is far from the only company competing in the confusing market for various types of water filters.
“The technology per se isn’t rocket science, and others also have access to it,” says industry insider Hans-Martin Blüder, head of the Insight Out management consulting firm. Nevertheless, he adds, Brita is the only real brand in the business worldwide.
Every day, a quarter of a billion people drink water that’s passed through a Brita filter. Germans use filtered, decalcified water primarily for hot beverages, while Americans, whose tap water is often highly chlorinated, use it for cold drinks. Asians prefer clear water to cook rice.
Brita has carefully tailored its products to preferences in each country, says consultant Blüder, who worked at Brita for several years. The company has also figured out how to add emotion to the brand, he explains, by transforming filtered tap water into “wellness water.”