The story of Kris Michiels, the founder of B-Better Water.
Who are you and what is a fact that few people know about you?
I’m Kris and I live in Brussels, Belgium. I've had the opportunity to work for a lot of great Unilever brands. Now I run the beverages and ice cream business in Belgium. In my spare time I actively participate in fitness activities, training every day.
Something few people know about me: I am a huge Lego fan. Not only as a child, but still today. Building something new, inventing a world.... love it!
What is B-Better and how does it distinguish itself from other drinks?
B-Better is a new beverage brand, which I created together with my partner in crime, Hélène, and a very nice group of people who believe in B-Better's vision.
It's a range of flavored waters with extra additives like vitamin C for immunity, or guarana for extra energy. Not only do we offer hydration with an extra better-for-you component, it also comes in a special plant-based packaging that is better for the planet. In the life cycle of our packaging we emit 66% less CO2 compared to a plastic bottle.
Can you explain how B-Better started?
I work for a large company, Unilever, they gave me the opportunity to build a beverage brand from scratch. I was a heavy cola drinker myself, up to 2.5 liters a day, when I started to realize that this might not be the right choice. But drinking only tap water can be pretty boring at times, and it’s not always readily available.
So, I really wanted to create a tasty drink with natural flavors, but close to water, with no or few calories. I also wanted to add something extra like vitamins.
Then we started talking to a lot of people, entrepreneurs, producers and of course a lot of consumers. We researched trends, looked at what was already on the market and tested a lot until we had a good product.
We didn't just want to put our drinks in a plastic bottle. Tap water is the most sustainable choice, but from the tap there's no taste (yet). Again, we went looking and one of the fairs we came to our 90% plant-based "box" as packaging. This way we make a positive impact on the environment, especially if we compare the box with glass or plastic.
Who did you make B-Better for?
For anyone who is looking for healthier drinks and doesn't want to compromise on taste. For people who pay just a little more attention to their own well-being, and to the well-being of our planet. Not in a fanatical way, but people who consciously choose to make a big impact with small actions.
How important is sustainability to B-Better?
Very important. In the broad sense of the word. It's also in our brand name "B-Better". B-Better to yourself and for the planet. Because of our low sugar content (or even no sugar), and the extra additives, we want to offer a healthier alternative in the soft drinks market.
Most people, of course, associate sustainability with the environment and that's also in B-Better's DNA. Better for the planet.
Personally, I found the biggest challenge to reconcile sustainability with our product. The real die hards don’t deviate from their reusable bottle and tap water. They have a negative attitude towards other beverage packaging.
That's why our packaging has been chosen very consciously and is one of the most CO2 friendly beverage packaging on the market. We thought it was important that we could prove this with a lifecycle analysis. We also support 1% for the planet, Join the Pipe and River Clean-Up: a more environmentally friendly packaging is a first step, but making sure our packaging doesn't end up in nature is a second.
What is your impression of the brand now, 1 year after the launch?
It was a special year! It's such an amazing feeling to see your product roll off the belt and finally see it on supermarket shelves. We also get very good feedback from consumers. People who try B-Better are immediately enthusiastic about it. People who don't know us yet don't always understand what we are, especially because since our products comes in an atypical packaging. So we still have to work on that.
How do you see the future of B-Better?
I very much believe in the future of B-Better and the mix between a tasty drink and functionality. People are becoming more aware of the impact of what they eat and drink on their bodies. And certainly, in the bizarre times of COVID-19. Things change quickly, but I hope for B-Better that this is the beginning of a successful story.
What would your advice be to others who want to start a brand?
1) There are so many choices to make if you want to start your own brand or business. That is why it is important to spend a lot of time on a sharp vision. What do you want to stand for? If you have that clear, then you have a kind of North Star to base your decisions on and that helps enormously.
2) We have really noticed what "the power of a strong network" can do for you. Most things have been done before, there are solutions to most of your problems and opportunities. Actively look for people and companies who can help you and involve them in your story. Go to trade shows, talk to people on LinkedIn. It amazed me how much people want to help you if you have a great vision.
3) Experiment, learn and adapt. Get feedback on as many elements of your brand as possible, see how people react, listen to that feedback and adapt. Today, there are so many online tools to quickly get direct feedback. Super powerful.
4) Have fun with it.