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Going plastic-free in water bottling business


Water is an important but scarce resource. This month, the media reported how parts of the capital city of Nairobi, had a deficit of water due to maintenance problems by the County Council and a deficit of a water collections systems. 

This is despite the county of Nairobi and other parts of the country experiencing the effects of the rainy season, such as flooding and food insecurity in areas such as West Pokot, Turkana and Mandera. 

The United Nations (UN), through its Resident Co-ordinator in Kenya, Mr Siddarth Chatterjee has said that the rains have rained in parts such as West Pokot, Turkana and Mandera.

Media reports estimated that the floods have led to the displacement of 17,000 people. The Meterological Department also estimates that there are rivers such as Chania, have been over flooded.

The County Council has already stated that there is a need for the city to acquire a Northern Water Collector Tunnel by next year to improve the capacity of water tanks and thus reduce the need for rationing, a strategy that is meant to ensure that water is evenly spread out to all in the city. But it is not just in the city where water scarcity is a problem. 

Two years back, areas such Eldoret and Kitale, faced the same, prompting officials like the Deputy Governor of Trans Nzoia town to urge the Nzoia Water and Sewerage Company to ensure that water would be deployed to the town and be protected from vandalism, stated The Star newspaper.

One company is also keen to ensure that residents of Kitale can have access to clean water. The grandson of the owner of Khetia Group, Mr Sharad Khetia explains that the company is at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Nairobi to launch of Kabarnet mineral water which is packaged in an eco-friendly glass bottle.

“Kabarnet water is found in the highlands of the Rift Valley and is one of the finest natural mineral waters in the world. It passes through sand filtration and ultra-filtration. We do not chlorinate or add additives to the mineral water,” explains Khetia, stating what sets it apart, during the interview.

Mr Khetia says that while Kabarnet started in 2015 in Kitale, the emphasis today is that it is being packaged in a unique glass bottle that is eco-friendly and is easily recyclable.

He says that out of the 700 water bottling companies, there are those that are in the streets, that have been filtered in the streets. The Kabarnet Group has distinguished itself from other bottling companies by focusing on innovation and manufacturing excellence.

Dressed in a grey suit and black shirt, Mr Khetia says that Kabarnet water is in the frontline to have green eco-friendly packaging and for all the stakeholders to support this initiative so as to create a greener and circular economy.

While this may be, bottled water had had its crtics. Ignited by researchers such as Paul Konnett and Ken Perrott, in their paper, The Flouride Debate, the authors questioned whether bottled water is safe, considering that the flouride meant to cleanse it, has its own adverse effects, such as the ability to affect how bodily cells communicate with one another or catalyse dental decay.

But the Khetia Group, under which Kabarnet is found, was started in 1980, says Mr Khetia. He says that it is a multi-divisional company that has operations in manufacturing, super markets, distribution and wholesale. The Khetia Group also has four divisions in Busia, Bungoma, Eldoret, Kitale and Kakamega. The bottling division of the company, Kabarnet, started back in 2015.

It is on the evening of  December 6th 2019, at Crowne Plaza to launch one of Khetia Group’s products known as Kabarnet. Khetia Group is owned by his grandfather, Durlabhram Sunderji Khetia. It has multi-divisional interests in manufacturing, supermarkets, distribution and wholesale products.

According to Mr Khetia, the group was founded in the initial highlands of the Rift Valley. He says that one of the finest natural mineral waters in the world.

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“ So today we are asking all our consumers to join in the safari with the mountain. That is the journey of Kabarnet Mineral Water,” he says.

Mr Eric Juma, who introduces himself as the Branding and Marketing Manager of the Khetia Group further explains that Kabarnet Water was founded on the foothills of the Mount Elgon, a mountain that is not only found in the Kenyan town of of Kitale and city of Kisumu, but also in the East African country of Uganda.

“ That is why we decided to bottle it at the source, so as to ensure that we get the purest natural water. Here there is less chance of contamination to ensure that customers to ensure that customers get the best product,” he says about the brand that it is competing against others in the market such as Aquamist, Dasani and Keringet, just to name a few.

“ The fact that the sparkling water of Kabarnet is a packaged in a glass bottle that is designed by the Mr Khetia’s late brother, Kishan Khetia is what the company can consider to be a blessing,” says Mr Juma.

The late Kishan Khetia, died in a crash, aboard a Cessna C208 aircraft, when it left Kitale while headed for Nairobi in July 2018. He and nine other nine other people, including the staff and passengers of the aircraft, died when the Cessna plunged into the Aberdare forest and had joined his family’s business to apply his training in Information Technology (IT).

Mr Juma says that the late Kishan was the Technical Lead Director at Kabarnet who was in charge of technical aspects of the brand.

Another milestone, Mr Juma, says is that the Khetia Group launched the Kabarnet water in an environmentally friendly bottle that would be able to reduce the effect of carbon footprint witnessed in the bottle. 

According to the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, a nationwide set of goals regarding the greenhouse emissions (GHG), Kenya is committed to reducing 30 percent of the carbon footprint that is released into the atmosphere caused by a variety of activities.

But there are difficulties that the Khetia Group has encountered, says Mr Juma.

“ One of the major challenges that are faced by the Khetia Group is either the proliferation of sub-standard or fake products, those that not properely packaged or those that are sold that prices that are not competitive or pose a risk healthwise,” he says.

The Kenya Bureau of Standards has also cautioned the public from bottling companies that tend to operate without licenses, a they could be a detriment to their customers.

Nevertheless, Khetia Group has worked had to ensure that it mitigates such challenges by focusing on quality and efficiency in its operations. The company has over 2,000 employees in towns and cities such as Kitale, Trans Nzoia, Bungoma,  Nairobi, Central, Nakuru, Kiambu and Mombasa.

Mr Juma further explains that the clients of Khetia Group are found in Western and the Northern part of Rift Valley and that they comprise of 80 percent of those who command that market. He further says that the brands of Khetia Group can be found in major retail outlets such as Nakumatta and Chandarana supermarkets.

“ Kenyans these days want water that is of high quality and that which is good for their health. That is one of the reasons that we saw it fit to bring Kabarnet water to the market,” says Mr Juma.

Regarding the future prospects of Khetia Group?

“ We would like to take Khetia Group to the next level, so as to become a corporate or household name in Kenya and the Eastern African market, so as to bring the best mineral water to everyone,” he says.



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