South Australian company PH8 came to the attention of Asian brewers when it was awarded a gold medal at a Chinese drinking water trade show in July.
Almost 50bn litres a year is consumed in China, twice as much as its nearest rival, America. An increasing thirst for premium craft beers also has it on track to become the world’s highest value beer market next year.
PH8 managing director Kym Dickeson said that this sort of recognition helped products quickly gain respect in China. It helped promote the brand internationally and has sparked talks with a number of Chinese craft breweries, he added.
High-quality water is crucial for manufacturers to produce premium craft beer.
“China at the present time are accepting beer in a big way, and there are breweries interested in quality water. That’s one of the things we are talking about,” Dickeson said.
“The Chinese are looking for anything that is Western and quality. They search far and wide for fresh products, fresh milks, because it is sometimes hard to get there.”
The high-alkaline water produced by PH8 is filtered naturally through black limestone at the southern tip of the Yorke Peninsula, about 110km west of South Australia’s capital Adelaide.
The water is collected in a large aquifer and picks up trace minerals along the way. The entire process takes about 12-14 months and results in water with low acidity and a pH of eight.
It is claimed that alkaline water has health benefits for a variety of ailments including allergies, arthritis, depression, heartburn, chronic fatigue syndrome and obesity.
It contains high amounts of potassium, calcium and magnesium – the latter two are also important elements in beer making.
Water constitutes about 90% of the total ingredients in beer, while calcium helps to boost the flavour and clarity of the brew. The magnesium is also important for the fermentation process.
According to analyst IBISWorld, beer sales in China have increased at an average rate of 3.1% per year to a total of about US$32.6bn over the past five years.
Founded by Nick Selfe in 2006, PH8’s bottled water is distributed around Australia as well as China and Singapore.
Dickeson said alkaline water was an in-demand product and was quickly absorbed by the human body.
“Alkaline water, when it has a PH level of above 7-7.2, means the clusters of hydrogen are not as bunched together and closed up,” he said.
“What other bottled water companies do is use reverse osmosis. What they do is take out all the germs in the water but by doing that they take a lot of good stuff out as well as the bad.
“We are always looking for opportunities, and there is an opportunity to get into Hong Kong as well. The award certainly gives us a leg up, that’s for sure.”
Dickeson said PH8 was also in conversations with another Australian company to export a powdered milk product.