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Plan for exporting also boosts image: Mountain Valley taps into Japanese market, plans to double export market.

Plan For Exporting Also Boosts Image

Mountain Valley Taps Into Japanese Market, Plans To Double Export Market

Ask Brooks Rice a simple question like why he started exporting, and your answer will be a geography, history, economics, and marketing lesson all packaged in a 1.5-liter plastic green bottle with a shiny label on the front.

The CEO of Mountain Valley Spring Company in Hot Springs says he didn't really explain his exporting plans to anyone -- he just said "I'll be back" and took off for Tokyo. There he struck a joint venture deal with a fellow Harvard MBA graduate who happens to be the president of Mitsubishi, the largest corporation in the world.

So, why? we ask again. Increased profits? Surplus capacity? Rice's response is one we had not heard or read before.

Mountain Valley was near bankruptcy when Rice bought it more than three years ago. He figured one way to prove that his product was superior to anything in the United States was to sell it, for a premium, to the people considered the most obsessed with quality -- the Japanese.

By the time the bottled water travels the 12,000 miles to Tokyo, the freight is worth more than the product. A one-liter bottle that sells for about $1 here, sells for the equivalent of $2.25-$2.50 there.

While exporting accounts for only about 5 percent of the company's business today, Rice expects that to double next year. Already he has expanded into Spain, and soon will be in Europe and Mexico.

The company has not had to make any real manufacturing changes to gear up for the exporting. Rice says they did start using plastic bottles instead of glass -- they weigh less and travel better -- but there was a demand for plastic at home, anyway.

Mountain Valley employees about 150 people in Hot Springs.

PHOTO : WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE: An aggressive export move into the Japanese market by water entrepreneur Brooks Rice may double his foreign business in 1991.
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Title Annotation:Mountain Valley Spring Company
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Dec 10, 1990
Previous Article:Whatever happened to Sidney Weniger? Developer wheeling, dealing despite $66 million bankruptcy.
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