Ganesh Iyer is India’s first and only certified water sommelier. He has been instrumental in the launch of various beverage brands such as Evian, Ferrarelle, Himalayan Glenmorangie, Smirnoff Black, Orangina, Perrier, and Qua in the Indian market.
Mr. Iyer’s association with the water industry has spanned over 20 years and his expertise provides technical support to the many palatable characteristics of water.
With this new certification, Mr. Ganesh Iyer has received sensorial training to understand different water types. Gauging the origin, composition, and nutritional benefits by which waters can be distinguished.
Mr. Ganesh Iyer’s ‘Water Sommelier’ accreditation is a unique contribution to understanding the nuances and varied properties of water.
When it comes to beverages, Ganesh Iyer knows a thing or two about the industry. A dynamic & consummate Sales Professional with close to two decades of proven expertise in Sales with domain expertise in HORECA on a Pan India basis in Beverages (Alcobev/ Non Alcobev).
His expertise lies in revenue expansion with a key focus on top-line and bottom-line profitability, budgeting and cost control, audits and statuary compliances, market research and intelligence, and trend analysis.
Icy Tales is in conversation with Mr. Ganesh Iyer who is passionate about environmental causes, and also an active Greenpeace donor, Mr.Ganesh Iyer strives to continue to build awareness about the positive impact of natural mineral waters in Glass with VEEN at the forefront.
When he’s not at work, he is busy trying to perfect his backhand in the game of tennis.
Q) Water sommeliers are not commonly heard of. Can you explain the significance of this role and guide how one can pursue a similar path of achievement?
Ganesh Iyer – Wine sommeliers have been around for a while but with the emergence of the fine water category and the growth of the fine water industry. It became necessary to have qualified individuals who can educate, train, and speak about the category, especially in the culinary environment.
A water sommelier is someone who can detect, recognize, and differentiate different types of natural waters based on their different natural characteristics such as minerality, carbonation, vintage, hardness, orientation, virginity, hardness, and various other elements.
A water sommelier has extensively trained on the subject and the basis of his/her expertise can suggest how to pair different waters with different cuisines, wines & spirits in the culinary environment.
In my case, After having spent close to 2 decades plus in the field of alcobev and non-alcove and having had the distinction of being part of teams that launched 6 different brands of natural mineral waters and sparkling waters in India from the 90’s with VEEN being the 7th water brand.
I believe that it was an opportune time to validate these learnings through DOEMENS Academy Munich in Germany which is rated as one of the best academies to get yourself accredited as a Water Sommelier.
Therefore one needs to be clear with the purpose of what one would like to achieve in life or what is a true calling. I was always fascinated by the beverage world because it allowed me to interact and meet new people and get enriched by different and newer perspectives.
Q) With over 20 years of experience in the water industry, what challenges did you face while researching and delving deeper into this field? How did you implement your knowledge?
Ganesh Iyer – Water as a beverage is often ignored in our country presumably because we believe that water is supposed to be free and therefore our approach towards the same is casual if not lackadaisical.
The brand that we represent in India, VEEN is India’s first natural mineral water brand in premium glass packaging. There was this misconception in the hotel and restaurant industry that when it comes to bottled water people are happy with PET bottles and therefore there wasn’t any need for a premium offering.
However, the discerning patron who frequents these culinary tables across the country is a well-traveled patron who understands the differences between packaged drinking water in a PET bottle and natural mineral water in premium glass packaging.
So what we as a brand encountered weren’t challenges but rather opportunities because it opened up doors for us to showcase premium drinking experiences that hitherto India wasn’t exposed to. So much so today that VEEN has single-handedly created a premium glass packaging mineral water industry in India.
VEEN ‘s strength since inception has been educating and training the hotel and restaurant associates on the merits of premium mineral water in glass packaging and its impact on not just the fine dining experiences, but also the exponential revenue stream that it is capable of generating for the HoReCa segment.
Q) How does water contribute to building immunity? Highlight its importance in this aspect
Ganesh Iyer – Water as a beverage is very unique in its offerings and there are multiple contexts and perspectives on water.
Regular Water or RO treated water does the primary function of being potable and able to quench your thirst and nothing more than that and this context is relevant and applicable to a segment of the population to whom availability of drinking water by itself is a challenge.
Now when we change the prism and move towards fine Waters there’s a different world out there and that is where I as a Water sommelier come into relevance.
Every Fine water whether it is Natural Mineral / Spring Water is unique based on various characteristics like vintage, hardness, pH level, terrier, TDS, etc., and more so this is the case with Fine Water.
Since the Renaissance, doctors have been documenting the health benefits of thermal waters, recognizing the effect of each mineral on the skin, and recommending treatments for patients suffering from serious dermatoses.
Ingredients like selenium, abundant in the thermal waters of La Roche-Posay, boost the immune system, helping to fight off infection. Likewise, the high concentration of mineral salts in Vichy waters can help with the regeneration of skin cells after reconstructive or plastic surgery.
Let’s take the case of ROI from Slovenia. Legend has it that ROI founded in 1647 was created by the Greek Mythological winged horse Pegasus and has the most magnesium-rich water ever found on earth with curative claims to reduce constipation.
Back home in Bhutan, VEEN Natural. Mineral Water has a high amount of calcium and is found beneficial for those suffering from osteoporosis etc.
Q) In terms of market acceptance and pricing, do you believe India is receptive to the changes a water sommelier can bring to water quality despite potential price increases?
Ganesh Iyer – Just as in all other consumer goods and services, so is the case with waters, that there is a varied set of audiences whose needs are varied as well.
We have a set of audience who are happy drinking water from the tap, there’s one that is comfortable paying INR 18-20 for a plastic water bottle and then there is a set of evolved consumers who have traveled the world and would not settle for anything ordinary in all aspects of their well being or lifestyle.
They have seen what is there on offer at culinary tables across the world, wherein good natural mineral water in premium glass packaging is not just a must-have but it also completes their discerning dining experience.
Thanks to the opening up of markets, the last set of audience is on the rise along with an increase in disposable incomes and exposure to the health merits of drinking natural mineral water from glass bottles.
In the case of VEEN, it has predominantly been a B2B brand with a focus on catering to the discerning need for culinary tables across the world and in the Indian subcontinent as well.
We have been able to establish VEEN as one of the most preferable natural mineral water brands owning to its international Finnish design, the source is from the world’s first and only carbon-negative country i.e. – the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, premium glass packaging, and finally it’s a TDS rich natural mineral water.
We have been growing at a CAGR of 32-34% year on year and we hope the trend will continue in years to come. One of the reasons for the Indian market to open up to new beverage and culinary trends.
This is because most of the patrons who frequent these culinary tables in India are the ones who are well-traveled and are now able to comfortably distinguish between wines and other beverages with ease.
Therefore in this given context, a water sommelier through being part of an extremely nascent trend in India can provide his/her expertise on the nuances of different types of waters, their importance, and their relevance in pairing with the discerning audiences who frequent these culinary tables.
Q) While water consumption is widely recognized as beneficial for overall health, what role do minerals play in the water and why are they important?
Ganesh Iyer – Mineral water is also known as spring water because it comes from natural springs, which are places where moving underground water comes out of an opening in the land’s surface.
Mineral water can also be made artificially by adding salts to distilled water or aerating it with carbon dioxide to create more carbonation. However, mineral water is naturally carbonated to varying degrees.
The nutritional content of both natural and artificial mineral water varies greatly, but it typically has a high content of minerals like Calcium carbonate, magnesium sulfate, potassium, and sodium sulfate. It may also contain gases like Carbon dioxide, Hydrogen sulfide
Health Benefits Due to its carbonation and mineral content, mineral water is known to provide multiple health benefits, including contributing to heart health, lowering Blood Pressure, relieving symptoms of constipation, and much more.
Q) Considering the importance of water conservation amidst climate changes, what are some effective ways to conserve water in your opinion?
Ganesh Iyer – A few steps that we can and should take are First, fix Faulty & Leaking Taps and Faucets. As per the US Environmental Protection Agency – a leaky faucet drips at the rate of 1 drip per second leading to 3000 gallons of water wastage per year.
Skip the shower and use the bucket instead. A power shower consumes 75 litres in 5 minutes whereas a bucket consumes 80 litres for your bath.
Secondly, Recycle Kitchen Water for the Garden. The kitchen waste water should be used to water the plants in the garden. Small kitchen gardens can also be set up and the water can be used.
While this would not only help save liters of freshwater from being used just for plants, it would also help grow simple fruits and vegetables which the family or the community can use.
Thirdly, invest in rainwater Harvesting Systems. Rainwater harvesting is a very crucial water conservation technique. We usually let the rainwater drain away and do not save it.
Collecting and storing rainwater not only increases groundwater levels, it also stops soil erosion and flood hazards to a great extent.
The government should make it Mandatory for high-rise buildings to have rainwater harvesting systems before granting an occupancy certificate. (OC)
Fourthly, limit the frequency of Car Wash to Once a Week. Car Wash are guzzlers when it comes to water and if at all one needs to use water. A community Car Wash wherein Water can be used in bulk to clean multiple cars
Lastly, one should switch off the tap when not in use. Do not keep the tap running while doing chores. For example, turn off the tap while brushing your teeth. As per a report, during brushing teeth one wastes 4 gallons of water each time which is equivalent to 15 liters of water.
Q) Microplastics have been causing disruptions in water quality. How can we eliminate their presence in our day-to-day water usage?
Ganesh Iyer – Here are some concrete ways to reduce your microplastic footprint. Firstly, stop using single-use plastics. Most of the plastic eventually breaks down into microplastics.
Simple things to reduce your interaction with plastic – Buy reusable water bottles, multi-use or steel straws, and tote bags for groceries and food shopping. Always buy fresh food and bulk items at the grocery store.
When possible, shop locally rather than through delivery services like Flipkart or Amazon which use a lot of plastic for packaging.
Buy Only Plastic Cosmetics Brands or buy brands that are cruelty-free because these brands are more likely to be socially conscious of their actions as compared to the MNCs.
Use Public Transport instead of a Car because that will overall limit tire erosion and plastic pollution. Ensure that the garments that you purchase are made out of natural materials like cotton, wool, and silk or are Organic in Nature.
Install additional filters in your washing machine that can catch microplastics from your existing garments. Discard your Microwave Oven – Plastic Containers leach plastics when heated and this also includes the so-called plastic containers that are labeled microwave safe.
Reduce Dust and Vacuum Daily – Close to 40% of dust particles around the home are made up of microplastics and therefore that amount can be reduced by ensuring your home is fresh and clean at all times.
Q) Could you share some techniques for ensuring safe drinking water?
Ganesh Iyer – The elementary technique remains the age-old mechanism of boiling water before drinking. To make it more safer and effective one can add cumin seeds, fennel, dry coriander seeds, etc.
Q) What is the best method of storing water, and which is preferable: drinking from a glass bottle or a copper bottle?
Ganesh Iyer – Glass is always preferable. The reason is glass is free from contaminants. In PET bottles, the presence of harmful carcinogens/toxins like bisphenol A (BPA) can be hazardous for human consumption. Premium Glass packaging won’t leach toxins.
Secondly, glass is easy to clean. Glass bottles are easy to keep clean and won’t lose their clarity from being washed or infused with fruit and herb blends, as plastics commonly do.
Moreover, the glass holds a steady temperature. Whether hot or cold, glass bottles hold liquids at a steady temperature more effectively than plastic.
Another positive point is that glass is environmentally friendly. Glass is endlessly recyclable, keeping it in use and out of landfills. While the majority of plastic bottles either end up in landfills or the oceans.
Lastly, glass keeps liquids clean and fresh. Glass bottles preserve taste and are better for the environment and your health, ensuring the water you drink is fresh, pure, and neutral.
Q) Finally, is the concept of pure water a myth? If so, how would you define the best quality of water?
Ganesh Iyer – Every Natural mineral water or spring water is unique on account of the multiple characteristics that water holds. They are TDS (Totally Dissolved Solids), vintage, terrier, hardness, virginity, and pH and therefore it would be a tad unfair to rate one brand superior over another.
Yes, in terms of the storytelling each brand is and should promote the USP that the said brand holds and there is nothing wrong with that. However, for any water to be considered as one of the best ones, is the source of the water.
From breaking into an untapped market to introducing a completely new category of glass-bottled premium mineral water, Ganesh Iyer has been the driving force behind brands that are well-known household names today.
With his veteran expertise in brand building, sales, and marketing, Ganesh Iyer has successfully created a niche for Natural Mineral Waters in Glass bottles with VEEN in India since its launch in 2012.