Industry Spotlight: Jason and Channon Donovan, Hawaii Volcanic Beverages Co-founders

Hawaii Volcanic Beverages Co-Founders Jason and Channon Donovan

Hawaii Volcanic Beverages’ water stands out in a crowded field of competition, not just because of what’s in the bottle, but because of how the genuinely pure, infused-by-nature, mineral- and alkaline-rich water supports our mission to benefit Hawai‘i.

Anybody can rent a warehouse and purify water with reverse osmosis and bottle it and call it water from Hawai‘i. That’s no different from Dasani or Aquafina or the other commodity waters.

Some what I call, ‘fake premium waters’ (on the mainland) are actually recycled wastewater that’s been run through machines and filters. They strip it down and run it through a secret machine that puts the minerals and alkalinity in there artificially and in tiny text the label discloses that this water is purified.

What makes our water unique is that it is naturally coming from an artesian well with minerals and alkalinity and we do our best to preserve the water in its natural form, because it’s already perfected by nature.

The lab that tests our water weekly says this water is considered the finest water in the world. It’s not just a marketing ploy. The structure and minerals that are in our water; magnesium, calcium, potassium and the alkalinity, is all natural. It is lava-filtered and as it goes through all that lava, it puts the minerals in there.

Alkalinity is a big deal these days. We have so much acid in our diet and acid causes diseases, so the concept is you need to offset all that acidity and neutralize it with foods and water containing alkaline. Even using our water to make things like tea and coffee makes everything taste better and better-for-you.

Pono Projects

My wife and business partner Channon is Native American from the Cherokee bloodline and in our 21 years, she has taught me a lot about the elements and how important it is to preserve what we’ve got and to make things better. That has aligned me with the Hawaiian culture. Ten years ago we met Ed Kaiwi, a konohiki, or caretaker of a heiau in Anahola, Kaua‘i. Ed, when he met us, he looked at us and said, “I’ve been waiting for you. You’re here to work with me on creating a water business that will benefit Hawai‘i and the people.”

And it does.

We support over 200 groups and organizations like the Boys & Girls Club, Aloha United Way and organizations that support the perpetuation of the Hawaiian culture, through financial and water sponsorships and through people power. We send our crews, our employees, and we go to the events and participate, my wife, my son and I. We plant trees, we pull plastic out of the ocean.

There’s what you say and what you do – and what matters is what you do.

The water is the means for the righteousness. The water generates revenue to enable us to do all these things. Water is sacred because water is life and we take that very seriously.

One of the projects my family and I have put together is an environmental and educational playground using recycled plastic and environmentally friendly building materials reflecting the history of Hawai‘i. Partially funded by Hawaiian Volcanic, the playground will be at Anaina Hou Community Park in Kilauea, a 30-acre park donated by Bill and Joan Porter (Bill is the late founder of e-Trade). We start building it August 13 and by September it’ll be built. We’re really proud of that one.

The Seabin Project is another one we’re working to bring to Hawai‘i. A couple surfers in Australia designed these floating buckets that get installed at marinas and ports. They siphon in oil and plastic and garbage and clean out the marina. We’re going to buy a bunch of those and we’re getting permission from the State Department of Land and Natural Resources to put them into a Waikiki marina. We need a partner organization that’s going to help monitor the machines and clean them out. That’s the kind of stuff I’m proud that my son Finn sees. Doing more good by taking steps to get rid of this plastic problem.

What about plastic

We held out for years, packaging only in glass because it is an eco-friendly option and because it created a premium feeling for the brand, which was the intention. Then we finally came to a point where, while glass is beautiful, less than 1 percent of all water sold is in glass.

Out of necessity in order to have a successful business, we decided to launch in recycled plastic, or RPET, which now sells 25 times more volume than glass. We had a lot of sleepless nights because we didn’t want to do plastic. As soon as plant-based plastic bottles are perfected then immediately we will transition. I joined the Bioplastic Association based in Germany. These guys are at the forefront, they are the labs. The good news is, Coke and Pepsi are funding a majority of the research. Part of the reason behind our Pono Projects is to offset the plastic that we put out there, but we’re environmentalists, we’re ocean people and would engage in those types of activities anyway.

Mom and Pop Shop

My wife and I have been in this together since Day One. We started the quest to create a premium beverage company 10 years ago with the realization, ‘Why are we buying imported water from other places like Fiji, Norway and France?

We’re playing in waterfalls, let’s create a Hawaiian brand.’

For the first five years we tried to find a pristine source of water on Kaua‘i where we’ve lived for 18 years, but it was really different to find a proper location with a high-quality water source and proper zoning to build a plant.

Then we learned of another entity that started a bottled water company on the Big Island, outside of Hilo and went to check it out. It was perfect. The water from the 500-foot artesian well on the slopes of Mauna Loa was perfect.

Some guys from California had built the bottling plant in 2008, right when the recession hit. They ran it for a couple years and by 2010 it went under. It was just sitting there and we were able to gather family and friends to raise the capital to buy the facility. We bought the land and the building and bottling equipment in 2011 and we released our first glass bottles in 2014.

We are actively working to grow our business and to grow our ability to benefit Hawai‘i and its people.


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