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Family-run Spadel wins Enterprise of the Year award

12:45 02/01/2018

Growth, innovation and a commitment to the environment: just some of the factors that have seen Spadel named Enterprise of the Year by global consultancy EY.

The prize is awarded to companies around the word each year; the family-run company follows in the footsteps of previous local winners including healthy fast-food chain Exki, babywear specialists Noukie’s and Pairi Daiza animal park.

Spadel distributes water from its two sources in Wallonia throughout the Benelux region under two brand names. It also manages two springs in France and one in Wales, and has just acquired a further site in Bulgaria. Each brand – Spa, Bru, Wattwiller, Carola, Brecon Carreg and Devin – is only sold within a 500km radius of the spring. This local focus is key to Spadel’s identity.

“Unlike the big multinationals who export their products around the world, our strategy is based on strong regional brands,” says Jean-Benoît Schrans, spokesperson for Spadel based at the company’s headquarters in Brussels. “We don’t export water to other countries. Our commitment is to be a regional product, and we want to reduce our ecological footprint by limiting the transport zone to 500km. For natural mineral water, you are obliged by law to bottle at source: you cannot transport it in bulk to somewhere else where you can produce it at a lower cost. So it’s also one of the economic activities where you have guarantees of local employment.”

Across Europe, Spadel employs almost 1,300 people, with 600 of them in Belgium. The majority work at the source in Spa, where the company is investing €12.5 million in a new production line due to be finalised in February.

In a competitive market, Spadel stands out for its commitment to health, of both the individual and the environment. In 2013, responding to market demands for healthier options that would encourage people to drink the recommended 1.5 litres of water a day, the company launched a range of sugar-free, all-natural flavoured waters.

“All our products are natural; even our lemonade is made with natural ingredients,” says Schrans. “And I could talk for hours about sustainability! All our bottles use recycled PET and are 100% recyclable. In Belgium, 85% of water bottles are recycled, it’s kind of a closed loop. It’s a communal responsibility; a big part is industry but the consumer also has to respect the recycling system.”

The most important impact of winning the Enterprise of the Year award is on the employees, he says, adding that it’s a recognition of all the good work that’s been done by every employee of the company, “from the blue-collar
workers to the CEO. We are one team, one company. We’re still family-owned and there’s a family culture within the company.”

The name Spa is also vey strong. The Romans discovered water in this area of Wallonia and valued it for its healing properties. When the mineral springs attracted those seeking therapeutic baths, Spa went on to become the generic term for wellness facilities.

“Very few people know that the spas they find in hotels come from this very small town in Belgium, which is the source of thermal water culture around the world,” says Schrans. “In some ways we are not proud enough. So this prize gives us the opportunity to be proud of what we do.”

This article first appeared in WAB (Wallonia and Brussels) magazine

Written by Sally Tipper