By Jade Chen

“Still or sparkling?” is what most customers hear when they first sit down at a restaurant. For most diners around the world, water is a given — indeed, it just takes a raise of the hand or a turn of the tap. Yet as more and more businesses embrace sustainability, water, just like every other element that makes up a restaurant, must be re-assessed. Often contributing greatly to a restaurant’s operations and environmental footprint, water is a fundamental yet often overlooked offering — a challenge which Swedish company Nordaq aims to address.

Providing a premium, sustainable water solution to foodservice businesses across 52 countries, Food Made Good member Nordaq is changing the way we think about water. Its patented water filtration system (and characteristic glass bottles) can now be spotted in restaurants all over Hong Kong as the company has really made a splash in the city’s F&B industry. Since launching in 2005, Nordaq has saved an estimated 5.7 billion single-use plastic bottles and still counting – providing a delicious and sustainable alternative to bottled water.

Johanna Mattsson, CEO of Nordaq Nordaq (Image: Zap PR)

To learn more about this incredible mission, I speak to Johanna Mattsson, CEO of Nordaq, about the company’s journey to Hong Kong, its progress so far and her vision for the future.

Making a splash

Johanna tells me that the idea for Nordaq came about 17 years ago when the founders of Nordaq were travelling the world and saw the same water being transported from Europe no matter where they went. Whether it be Hong Kong, Australia or Macau, the founders were seeing the same water being flown in from miles away, and that’s when the idea came: to create premium water that can be produced locally to eliminate all transport.

From that point on, the company has flourished, expanding globally and arriving in Hong Kong. “We’re looking to help communities that want to be sustainable,” says Johanna. “In Hong Kong”, she observes, “everything that is thrown in the water eventually ends up on the beaches, and it’s easy to see why we need a more sustainable alternative”. For Nordaq, their arrival in Hong Kong was spurred by demand from businesses that have committed themselves to sustainability and are actively searching for more sustainable solutions. “Partnerships have exploded, and having genuinely dedicated and committed customers is fantastic. Word spreads fast”.

Customers in Hong Kong have been quick to jump on the bandwagon. As Johanna rightly observes, the city is a community of trailblazers, and everyone is excited and keen to try something new. The diverse population mix of Hong Kong is open to novelty, and Johanna observes that people want to stay and take care of the environment. “They want their grandchildren to have the same beaches they enjoy today,” says Johanna.

Nordaq water (Image: Zap PR)

Taking the plunge

For Johanna, who grew up in the mountains, sustainability has always been a part of life. “I understood from a young age that man and nature have to live in harmony and respect. Not leaving anything but your footprints behind. So for me, life has always been about sustainability”. As she grows older, Johanna tells me that she can see the effects of climate change with her own eyes. “There’s not just one winter with less snow— it’s becoming a pattern that reappears every winter”. Moreover, an especially memorable wake-up call for Johanna occurred around five years ago, when she was snorkelling with her daughters in Mallorca. Recalling the trip, she remembers seeing plastic in the water and her daughter imagining what a plastic-less sea would be like. “I realised that a life like that wasn’t the life I wanted to leave behind,” she said, “so when I had the opportunity to join Nordaq I immediately took the chance to make a difference”.

A key step for Nordaq is helping customers understand how complex water’s journey can be. “It’s not just about plastic bottles but transportation too”. Johanna comments that the most important element is intuitive understanding: “in Sweden, people accept that you drink filtered water rather than buying bottles of water. This is something we need to transfer to Hong Kong as well”. Despite being progressive, Hong Kong is still home to customers who are adamant about their choices without necessarily thinking about the impacts. For customers such as these, Johanna says it’s important to understand that each bottle of water they order has a huge impact, with effects that ripple on a much larger scale.

Moreover, Johanna argues that switching to Nordaq water filtration should be a no-brainer. Environment-wise, the solution makes obvious sense, giving restaurants and hotels the ability to serve high-quality and delicious still and sparkling water in-house. From a financial standpoint, Nordaq is also a no-brainer. As Johanna explains, ever-changing circumstances due to transportation, inflation and global shortages can threaten the water supply, and restaurants and hotels need to become self-sufficient.

Nordaq’s manual water filtration system

A taste of what’s to come

Like many other businesses, one of Nordaq’s greatest challenges in the past few years has been dealing with the pandemic. Covid-19, which has hit the global foodservice and hospitality businesses the hardest, has in some cases pushed sustainability out of the forefront. In Hong Kong for example, quarantine hotels are forced to serve bottled water— a step backwards from all the progress Nordaq has been making. Yet as the world emerges from the pandemic, Nordaq continues to push on, introducing new initiatives and spurring a flurry of exciting actions.

Around three years ago, Nordaq decided to take a big step forward and introduce automated bottling systems. Its systems now range from manual to fully automated, and Johanna tells me that fully automated systems can bottle anywhere from five hundred to a few thousand bottles per hour. This solution, she says, allows Nordaq to cater to casinos and larger hotels as well. “Our vision for Nordaq is to keep up with the pace of change in the world and launch on a larger scale. I hope to never see a plastic bottle or bottled water in any hotel, anywhere in the world”.

As for expanding the company’s reach, Johanna tells me that spreading the word comes almost naturally. “When you deliver the best service and the best quality, then customers will talk to other businesses. So all we need to do is keep up the work and keep doing what customers want, and naturally, we get a steady stream of people coming to us”. Nordaq’s water, Johanna explains, is unique in that a bottle here in Hong Kong will taste exactly like the Nordaq water she is drinking in Paris. Nordaq, Johanna tells me, is a reliable solution that businesses and chains around the world can count on.

Crystal clear water with flavour-enhancing properties

Creating a buzz

Johanna tells me that consumer awareness is growing and can already be observed today. “Customers are beginning to understand that it’s possible to have good filtered water. They realise that they don’t need a certain brand of water, since filtered water tastes equally as good, if not better”. In general, customers are becoming increasingly sustainably-minded, and Johanna says that some people have even called Nordaq after visiting restaurants serving their water. “They want to see if they can get the filtration systems installed in their houses,” she says, “they don’t want to use plastic bottles anymore”. Noticing Nordaq’s waters in restaurants sparks interest and curiosity, and people are beginning to realise that something as simple as water can bring about a huge difference. “There’s a lot to do— it’s all about changing consumer behaviour”.

Nordaq’s premium sustainable end-to-end water solution

Nordaq is the water of choice for high-end restaurants around the world, and Johanna tells me that her Nordaq family which caters to a mix of restaurants from high street to high end, include a total of 163 Michelin stars globally. In Hong Kong, Nordaq works with several Food Made Good HK Members, including Amber, Meraki Hospitality Group and Te Quiero Mucho. “Without Nordaq, they wouldn’t be able to do what they’re doing now. For example, a chef I met who has been a Nordaq customer for ten years tells me that he knows exactly how the water works with the food and the wine. If he ever decides to open another restaurant, he can count on Nordaq water and won’t have to figure out everything from scratch. In this case, Nordaq is a guarantee that food and wine will be at the centre of the dining experience”.

A bright future ahead

The Nordaq family continues to blossom and grow, and Johanna tells me that staff joining the company are already educated about sustainability: “they come because they want to make a change in the world”. For many of them, coming to work at Nordaq is part of a mission to leave something positive behind for future generations. “They’re educating me and teaching me every day as well,” says Johanna.

For customers here in Hong Kong, Johanna urges customers to use filtered water or, if it isn’t available, locally sourced water. “There’s no need for buying bottles from overseas,” she states.

As businesses in Hong Kong seek to further their sustainability efforts, Nordaq’s filtered water is sure to pop up more and more— just look out for their distinctive bottles the next time you eat out!

To learn more about Nordaq head to their website here.

If you make sustainable products suitable for foodservice please get in touch about Food Made Good Membership and lets see what possibilities lie ahead in normalising sustainability!