Safe drinking water is a problem for an astounding 2.1 billion people. Most of these people are not the destitute/ultrapoor, but rather the working poor who earn $2-10/day. Lack of consistent and reliable access to safe drinking water causes these families to suffer from a range of diseases, including diarrhea, cholera, hepatitis A, typhoid, and dysentery. These diseases lead to a higher mortality rate, particularly among children, with 361,000 children under 5 years of age dying as a result of diarrhea every year. Increased disease exposure also reduces the strength, health, and equitability of communities and societies across the world.
This is particularly the case in low-income urban areas where we have focused our research. We have conducted extensive market research in Iztapalapa and Ciudad Neza, on the outskirts of Mexico City, where water quality is some of the worst in urban Latin America. Folia Water has also just received a $400k contract from Unilever Global Innovation to prove the consumer sales recipe in partnership with the Unilever Bangladesh PureIt team. Folia is working with such firms to access the store-owners and kiosks on-the-ground in target countries. From Folia Water’s household visits and focus groups to the partnerships allowing us to do door-to-door sales and education in target markets, Folia has gathered and will continue to obtain valuable data and insights as to what retail recipe will work for low-income urban communities, from the ideal product design to the culturally relevant marketing message that will suit our target consumer’s needs and win their trust. Other key partnerships include BOP Innovation Center in Bangladesh, Kopernik in Indonesia, as well as a major multinational in Mexico (still cannot be disclosed).
We are convinced that solving the problem of dirty water requires enabling low income consumers to have agency over their own access to safe water. Current consumer products and solutions are capital intensive and complicated. A solution appropriate to low income consumers needs to be (1) simple, requiring little to no instruction, (2) must not require electricity, and (3) must be sold at the same price point as other household consumer products that they are able to afford, i.e. sold for pennies and not dollars.
Folia Water’s Solution:
The Folia Filter is an antimicrobial filter paper that is simple, does not require electricity, and is cheap. Folia Filters contain silver nanoparticles that kill bacteria and viruses, while the paper’s pore size physically filter out larger parasites.
Our innovative solution is the only cost-effective and high-quality solution targeting the 2.1 billion people in households earning $2-10/day who currently spend $20 billion on household water.
The UN Millennium Development Goals and the efforts of non-profits have raised awareness of the need for safe drinking water around the world. Corporates have created large new water product categories for the wealthy and middle class in emerging markets: bottled water (Nestle, Danone, Coke, Pepsi) and durable good appliance water filters, e.g. in India (Unilever, Eureka Forbes, Tata). Their advertising has positioned safe drinking water as an aspirational health product, viewed by all consumer segments.
However, the demographic Folia Water is targeting (the bottom of the pyramid consumer market) is largely overlooked. While rich and middle-income consumers are well served with high quality products, these low-income consumers are generally underserved, paying more in absolute terms for lower quality goods (anywhere from 30% to 10 times more). The bottom billion who are destitute or ultra-poor are served by humanitarian NGOs and governments, which comprise a separate channel requiring a very different business model, and therefore not relevant to us.
Innovation and Impact:
By leveraging the low-costs and scale of paper manufacturing, Folia Water can price its proprietary nano silver-infused paper water filters (packaged like coffee filters) at a retail price of $0.20 for 20 liters, only 1¢/liter. Folia Water’s technical innovation therefore also opens up a business innovation: the world’s first consumer packaged goods water filter, i.e. a product priced as a consumable and sold through food/beverage retail grocery stores. Additionally and importantly, our simple product design has been closely guided by the consumers in our target markets. Through focus groups and research over the past 2 years, we have created a product that fits into the consumer kitchen and shopping journeys, thereby minimizing the need for habit change.
Currently in developing urban markets, bottled water is the dominant safe water product — a $58B market and projected to grow to $203B by 2030. Household bottled water is sold in 20 liter (5 gallon) water cooler bottles called:
cans in India
galons in Indonesia
garrafons in Mexico
Branded 20L bottles sell for $1-2 to the upper and middle class. Our target market, low income consumers, buy unbranded refilled 20L bottles for $0.40-0.60. Folia Filters are $0.20 for the same 20 liters, half the price.
Additionally, we compete with durable good appliances, such as the world’s #1 water filter, the Unilever PureIt, which costs $20-200 and targets mid to high socioeconomic status.
In all cases Folia Filters are the most affordable solution