Bottled water is second only to carbonated soft drinks in commercial beverage sales in the United States, according to the International Bottled Water Association, known in the industry as the IBWA. As of May 2015, the bottled water industry posted a more than $40 billion direct positive economic impact in the United States, and the market continues to expand. If you're interested in starting a water bottling company, begin by examining what the federal government requires concerning location, equipment and processing.
Learn the Laws
Bottle water is considered a packaged food product under U.S. law and therefore is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Become familiar with all the FDA guidelines before purchasing any equipment, as regulations are strict.
Select Water Source and Equipment
The FDA allows you to choose between two sources of water -- groundwater and the public water supply. If you choose an available groundwater source, this will need to be inspected and certified as sanitary to meet FDA requirements.
Besides a consistent and reliable water source, you will need to purchase bottles, sanitizing equipment, bottling equipment, packaging and labeling materials. Sophisticated systems that will load empty bottles onto a conveyor, rinse, sanitize, fill, cap and label them, are available from several companies.
If you are going to deliver your product to customers, consider the type and number of delivery trucks needed as well.
Choose a Location
Your location must meet FDA requirements and should be situated in an area convenient to your suppliers and distributors. The facilities must meet FDA sanitary standards, which require a separate bottling room with self-closing doors and tight construction. In addition, an enclosed room is necessary for washing and sanitizing bottles before filling. FDA regulations also prohibit any part of the plant to be connected to an area used for domestic purposes. Therefore, setting up a small water bottling operation in the garage is out of the question.
Use IBWA Resources
Members in the IBWA include water bottlers, wholesale distributors and companies that supply the bottlers. Organized in 1958, the IBWA can provide you with several resources when starting a bottled water business. For example, the organization provides free comprehensive lists of suppliers and distributors in the industry, plus updates on federal regulations.
Starting a water bottling company, either in the wholesale or retail industry, can work for business-minded individuals with limited capital for initial costs if partnered with a private label company. The initial cost for a franchise runs from $10,000 to $50,000, according to Entrepreneur.