The Inside Story

CAPI – BOTTLING WATER AND AUSTRALIAN GOODNESS

“Fail as often as you can. If you don’t fail then you haven’t tried hard enough.”

THE GRASS IS GREENEST RIGHT HERE, IN AUSTRALIA 

For reasons, Pitzy Folk can’t understand — most Australians seem “conditioned to think imported products are best”. Well, according to Pitzy that simply isn’t true. And he’s on a mission to prove it. This charismatic Austrian (that’s Austria, as in Europe. We haven’t mis-spelt ‘Australian’), was born to be an entrepreneur. Having started a career in hospitality, Pitzy experienced all the incredible produce Europe has to offer, before meeting and falling in love with his Australian wife and migrating down here permanently. And it was right here on our home soil that, in 2012 Pitzy founded CAPI. The all-natural, all-Australian made and owned beverage company, combining some of the world’s freshest water with the best produce. 

We suppose it takes an outsider’s perspective to see how amazing Australian produce really is, and that’s exactly what Pitzy discovered upon arriving here almost 50 years ago. After several different business ventures, Pitzy found his entrepreneurial ‘home’ with CAPI. With a genuine passion for local produce, he sourced some incredible springs and set out to bottle and manufacture water and water-based drinks right here in Australia. 

The whole concept seems SO obvious right? Why import bottled water from Italy when we have the resources to bottle our own? Surprisingly, this has been quite the education piece for the Folk family. As they compete with the “big guys” like San Pellegrino or Santa Vittoria, one of their toughest challenges to date has been convincing Australians that Australian water is just as good — if not better, than imported. I guess we’re just an overly humble country… 

THE BRIGHT (AND NOT SO BRIGHT) SIDE OF BORDER CLOSURES

Though CAPI had been doing an admirable job of educating the Australian hospitality industry about the value of serving local produce, the recent COVID crisis has had an influential hand in this whole education piece. It’s a message that seems so ironically obvious when vocalised by Pitzy, that “just because you’re an Italian restaurant, doesn’t mean you have to serve Italian water, you make Italian dishes but don’t import Italian vegetables!?”. Yet, it’s something so many of us hadn’t stopped to think about. With limitations and difficulties around international shipments, Australians had to look within their own country for things they previously bought from overseas. According to Pitzy, this has helped immensely with a perspective shift, because “we’ve always looked somewhere else for better, but now Australia is at a place where it actually IS better”. And thanks to these shipment restrictions, people are beginning to realise that. 

However, with this highlight also comes a downside… Maybe it’s the universe balancing itself out cosmically, or maybe it was just another challenge to overcome for CAPI and small businesses alike. When positioning their brand in the marketplace, CAPI worked extremely hard to find a niche they could readily own and service to a high-standard. This ‘CAPI niche’ became the restaurant and bar industry! Afterall, being based in Melbourne meant the Folk family were passionate about the food and drink culture, so why not occupy that space with their beloved brand? Unfortunately, with the spread of COVID-19 came the closure of this once thriving industry. All of a sudden, 80% of CAPI’s business stopped. In what was one of the “hardest times in their history”, CAPI had to “retract to survive” and they also had to evolve. Luckily Pitzy isn’t afraid of a setback, quite the opposite in fact — his passion and determination are just all the more evident with every hurdle the business faces, so true to this sentiment — he worked and is still working to pivot the focus of the business. While they will continue to service their existing market (now that it’s alive and well again), they’re also now “talking to major retailers to expand the business”, offering up a selection of product that “accurately represents the brand, with up to 4-5 SKUs” (SKUs refers to their flavours, we’ll get to that shortly). So far they’ve found a new home in 7/11 and are working on some of the larger supermarket chains too. 

THE NEXT GENERATION

Ever the family-man, Pitzy’s futuristic thought starts with his own brood but extends to all… With both daughters already available to work on elements of the business when needed, the influence of their unique skill sets can be seen in various elements of the brand. But CAPI is also looking out for the future of generations around the world. As a passionate fisherman, Pitzy could literally see the impact plastic bottled water was having on the world around him and instead of being overwhelmed by it, he thought about what he could do himself to make a difference. How could they implement sustainable practices into their business? And in true Pitzy ‘all or nothing’ style, CAPI commissioned RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) to complete a sustainability audit of the brand so they could truly understand what they were able to do, to become more ethically conscious. 

With his eldest daughter Saskia guiding Pitzy’s “business consciousness”, it turned out they were already pretty favourable when it came to protecting the environment. Saskia’s background stems from her work with Indigenous cultures and her passionate thought for the planet is self-evident through her lifestyle, living on a farm along the NSW coast. Saskia is a prominent figure within the business when it comes to keeping the brand accountable for its environmental footprint and according to the RMIT research, she’s doing a bloody brilliant job. So, with everything in a good place in that respect — the study branched out to “form a brand roadmap that stretches beyond sustainability, impacting many facets of the business”. This ‘roadmap’ outlined a strategy around brand perception, to cement CAPI as the most sustainable (delicious and nutritious) beverage company in Australia. With that at the forefront of the business agenda, CAPI called upon Pitzy’s younger daughter and “brand guardian” Lucy Folk. A talented artistic designer with a highly successful brand of her own (Lucy Folk jewellery), Lucy offers her guidance to Pitzy when she can, to help craft the brand messaging. And, under the influence of her environmentally conscious sister Saskia, Lucy has been there to assist in evolving Capi as a brand – to represent the sustainable elements of the business. Her expertise lies in brand development and perception, but in Pitzy’s words, she “ just tells him when something isn’t cool”… Together the girls are a formidable team, balancing ethical pursuit with incredible branding — a truly winning combination. Pitzy is one lucky dad to be able to call upon their skills when needed! 

THE SWEETNESS OF NATURE

Pitzy has just a few aspirations for the future of CAPI… global domination and the sweetness of nature. As an already all-natural beverage product, CAPI is well on its way to fulfilling Pitzy’s aspirations for the future. He hopes to continue to educate Australians and the world about the merit of natural-goodness. All of Capi’s products are currently made with natural ingredients, with a future ambition to help Australians reduce their sugar intake and increase hydration. This is because Pitzy truly believes in the natural ingredients and flavour combinations and “isn’t afraid to fail” when it comes to trying out new flavours (or anything really). According to Pitzy, failure gives you the freedom to continue to pursue your passions without fear and believes that “if you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough”. So it’s no surprise that among other things, he’s willing to take on the monumental challenge of competing with addictively sugary brands, with his own sugar and sweetener free alternatives. He believes the local produce can stand up on its own, and with everything (aside from the tonic ingredients) grown and sourced right here in Australia, we believe it too! Our current favourite combo is blood orange and sage, but we’re also partial to the spicy ginger beer. 

Along with revolutionising customer ‘fizzy drink’ expectations, Pitzy would love the brand to “go global”. However his vision isn’t quite what you’d expect… Instead of shipping Australian waters and flavours around the world, Pitzy’s belief in local produce is what he wants to bottle and share. He imagines that when the brand does enter international markets, wherever that may be — all the water and ingredients would still be sourced and bottled locally, hero-ing different cultures and flavours around the world. LOVE IT. 

Learn more about CAPI.

Words: Phoebe Carden
Photography: Lauren Bamford, CAPI

OTHER STORIES

The Business of Family

UGG AUSTRALIA – HOW ONE FAMILY FOUND BEAUTY IN THE UGLY

Learn the story of Ugg Australia – they’re the Ugg boot manufacturers championing Aussie heritage from the tannery to the finished boot, proudly 100% Australian made from start to finish.

read more
Just Between Us

SLOW FASHION IN A FAST-PACED INDUSTRY – LEARN HOW THIS COUPLE COMBINES SUSTAINABILITY WITH STYLE

We meet Marnie and Adam of ELK; the fashion house prioritising ethical standards to make artful collections with purpose.

read more
Just Between Us

SPEEDFIT YOUR WAY TO HEALTH – THE COUPLE INTRODUCING WORKOUTS ON YOUR TERMS

Learn how this husband and wife team are giving us the body of our dreams, all in less than 30 minutes.

read more