The idea was ahead of its time when Liesl Harder Kielp, founder and president of AguaSAC, L.L.C., began talking with colleagues three years ago about packaging water in a pouch. “The film structures available were not conducive to water — they would taint the flavor,” explains Kielp, who is also founder of EnVision Flexible Packaging, referring to the material used for making the containers. Modifications over the last few years have overcome that hurdle, and Kielp’s package design overcame another. While most packages of this type have a gusset on the bottom, Kielp’s have side gussets. “It makes the pouch more like drinking from a bottle or a juice box,” she says, noting it has more structure and stability, and the consumer can handle it without squeezing the contents out.
After putting a year into development, Kielp launched the product the first of February with Sedona Bottling Company’s natural artesian water. Kielp felt it was a good fit for two reasons. It is naturally fresh and healthful water packaged in pouches that are completely recyclable and free of the Bisphenol A, a controversial chemical compound. And, she says, “both AguaSAC and Sedona are Local First companies, and I’m on a mission to push local businesses … [it] helps our economy.”
To affix the labels on the pouches, Kielp provides employment for disabled individuals in the community. AguaSAC works with the Arizona Foundation for the Handicapped, which hires workers through its own organization, and with Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center, which trains the individuals and then mainstreams them away from SAARC to become direct employees of AguaSAC.
Kielp also created a packaging line that enables AguaSAC to achieve the same speeds as bottling lines. “Filling speeds [for pouches] can be very slow, and that’s the reason pouches have not taken off in the U.S. as they have in Europe,” she explains. This innovation enables AguaSAC to handle large orders as well as ones as small as 100. Offering customized labeling that puts any business’s information and logo on the front of the pouch, AguaSAC markets to businesses that give water to their visitors, retailers such as Starbucks and Bashas’ that sell it to their customers, and even youth organizations such as Little League that can use them for fundraising.