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Purifier makers see thirst for cleaner water in China

Updated: 2013-06-27 05:49
By Cai Xiao and Yang Ziman ( China Daily)

Domestic and foreign water purifier suppliers are expanding in China, where households are feeling the pain of clean water shortages.

Companies such as United Kingdom-based Unilever, Beijing Origin Water Technology Co and United States-based Amway have developed their own water purifiers.

Unilever, the global consumer goods giant, plans to sell its water purifier, called Pureit, in China starting on July 1. It has already begun trial sales in Nanjing and will expand into Suzhou, Wuxi, Changzhou in Jiangsu province and Shanghai this year.

The main distributors of Pureit will include supermarkets, electronics retailers, including Suning Appliance Co Ltd and GOME Electrical Appliances Holding Ltd.

Cooperation with property developers and e-commerce retailers is under consideration.

"As a move to implement our sustainable development plan, Pureit has achieved a good performance in eight countries, and we are confident of success in China as well," said Zeng Xiwen, a vice-president of Unilever China.

Zeng added that the drinking water purifier market is open and has few regulatory constraints.

Pureit, introduced in 2008, is now sold in eight countries to 48 million consumers. Unilever aims to provide clean water to 500 million people by 2020, and at least 5 to 10 percent will be Chinese, said Zeng.

OriginWater claims to have a core competence in membrane research and development.

It set up a household water purification branch in 2009 and developed its own purifier portfolio for urban and rural consumers. It now has more than 100 dealers across the country.

Its sales of water purifiers in 2012 totaled 31.3 million yuan ($5.06 million), up 64.8 percent year-on-year, according to the company's annual report.

OriginWater was listed in Shenzhen in 2010. Its total annual revenue reached 1.77 billion yuan last year. Its annual report said the company will expand its water purifier business and make the new business a driver of performance growth.

Amway has also announced its foray into the Chinese clean water market, introducing a 6,000-yuan water purifier.

According to the China Water Purification Association, there are more than 3,000 companies engaged in the sector. The retail prices of water purifiers in Beijing range from a few hundred to a few thousand yuan.

No brand has a majority market share. Moreover, there is no single set of standards for these devices, which carry certifications in China, the US, Japan and other countries.

Many current players in the sector are foreign, and their prices are high. Domestic electronic purifier manufacturers are producing devices that target potential buyers, said Wang Liang, an investment manager focusing on the environment sector at Kunwu Jiuding Capital Co Ltd, a leading domestic private-equity company.

"As the core technology of water purifiers is membrane technology, domestic players such as OriginWater in this segmented market can find many opportunities," Wang said.

Wang added that Chinese consumers are becoming more affluent and want to improve the quality of their drinking water.