Dasani and Nikini water-bottle production at full steam in Puerto Rico
Despite the government of Puerto Rico’s assurance there isn’t a shortage of bottled water, the empty shelves in the island’s main supermarkets would suggest the contrary. However, the president of Club Caribe Distillers (CCD)—producers of Dasani and Nikini water brands—Alberto De la Cruz, stated there isn’t a scarcity and his plant continues to operate 24 hours a day with electricity produced by diesel-powered generators.
During a visit to the CCD plant in Cidra, Caribbean Business was able to observe that the plant is in good condition and maintains operations despite being faced with daily challenges.
As the only plant of its type in Puerto Rico that’s operational at this time, thanks to its capacity to produce its own carbon dioxide (CO2), CCD assumed the responsibility of producing water for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“We signed a contract with FEMA, where we supply them [with bottled water], and they come and pick up it here. We supply around 17 trucks a day,” the businessowner explained, also elaborating about how the federal agency picked CCD as the supplier for their work in communities affected by the hurricane.
“They came and asked us to supply them small bottles, but we suggested they use gallons instead, for convenience, since people would be able to reuse them at the oasis when they went to get water. We are able to supply normal demands, but it has been difficult to keep up with an emergency like this one. We have seen people using bottled water for everything, and that’s why the demand has increased and we have less available stock. Before, people would go to the oasis but now they aren’t using them,” De la Cruz declared.
The entrepreneur indicated bottled water constitutes 20% of overall sales during usual circumstances. Nevertheless, the emergency has increased that number to 60%, which has become a challenge for the company. They are working at full speed to supply the large demand for water on the island.
De la Cruz argued that to reduce some of this demand, the public needs to use the oasis provided by the Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority (Prasa), as well as the two public oases the company has at their plant in Cidra and at Coca-Cola P.R. Bottlers in Cayey.
“There’s enough bottled water to supply 35% to 40% [of the population] but the rest needs to come from the oasis to prevent problems with availability,” he added.
“There’s a lot of misinformation about this. If you go to Prasa’s webpage, they have a list of all the certified oases around the island. That’s why we suggested gallons. The idea is precisely for FEMA to impact a region with those gallons and for people to reuse and supply themselves with water at an oasis,” he emphasized.
De la Cruz says they have outlined a strategy to avoid having local commerce be affected by the FEMA contract. The federal agency exclusively receives gallons of Nikini water, while the 16-ounce bottles continue to be supplied to supermarkets. As for Coca-Cola’s caravans that have been going around the island, they are using Dasani gallons.
“We’ve been putting these bottles in all our Coca-Cola caravans with ‘Tito el Bambino.’ This is a product we already have; what we did was divide the products between different markets to make sure we didn’t fall short in any,” he explained.
“With each caravan, we distributed 2,000 boxes of this product. We are trying to go out in these caravans twice a week. [Thursday, Oct. 19], we visited Barranquitas, and last week we visited Guayama, Cataño and Yabucoa. So, what we do is go house by house and leave two gallons at each one. Our vision is that [the containers] be reused at the oasis,” he added.
But why would a company like CCD take on the responsibility of supplying the federal government with bottled water? De la Cruz indicated that the main motivation comes from the company’s social responsibility policy.
“We have the production. I could be selling those gallons to supermarkets, but how is that going to help someone who doesn’t have water? It doesn’t help at all. Now, a supermarket can sell the small bottles, but right now, when we saw FEMA giving out small bottles, we thought that’s not going to help anyone,” he said.
De la Cruz added that the company still hasn’t done an evaluation of damages to their facilities or actions to take in the future. He stated that the company’s priority is to continue supplying the demand for bottled water and “confront any problems one day at a time.”