Interview with Icelandic Glacial Chairman Jon Olafsson in Balthazar Magazine

Real self-made man, stemming from a family without real resources, Jón Ólafsson began to work at the age of 14 in the environment of music. Two years later, we find him producing of professional groups. By means of work and of doggedness, he becomes in a short time the most influential man of the Icelandic music, 85 % of all which is recorded in Iceland is produced by him.

Over time, his radius of action widening, he includes in 1999 all his activities within Northern Lights Communications, a multimedia conglomerate gathering the cinema, the radio, the television, the print media and the mobile telephony. Sectors in which he becomes the incontested leader in Iceland, with a lot of footbridges towards the United States, and more particularly towards Hollywood. Its success and the empire which it built were worth to him the nickname of " Icelandic Richard Branson ".

Become very popular, anticipated one timeto a political career, and tired of the wars of power which mine Iceland, country in the hands of 14 ancestral families, Jón Ólafsson decides in 2003 to retire from business and sells its empire. But incapable to give way in the peaceful days of the retreat, we find him in the head of an Icelandic company of mineral water premium today, Icelandic Glacial. A water among which the purity without equal and the undeniable virtues, having seduced all Hollywood, taps to the Chinese market today and has just been chosen by Dior as exclusive partner as its key range Diorsnow, which guarantees a pure, brilliant and spotless complexion.

 HOW THE FORMER TYCOON OF THE MEDIA AND THE MOBILE TELEPHONY,REDEEMED LONDONER BESIDES, FINDS HIMSELF IN TODAY THE SECTOR OF THE MINERAL WATER?

Jón Ólafsson : In 2003, my son Kristjan, who presided officiated in the universe of the international trade for businessmen of Saudi Arabia, had received for command to find a company of mineral water to be acquired. After a long prospecting, Kristjan found in the South of Iceland, in the town of Þorlákshöfn, a company of water which was on the verge of bankruptcy. He mades a takeover bid which was accepted. But when Kristjan called the Saudis to congratulate them with being the owners of a company of Icelandic water, these turned a deaf ear and have never paid him.

WHAT IS THEN YOUR REACTION?

The one that would have had any father: help my son by advising him at best. But before making a decision on the company of water, an owner of which he had become by necessity, I appealed to diverse international experts to test the water of this source. At the beginning of 2004, we obtained all the certifications required to be able to market it. We discovered that this water had incredible virtues. From then on, we could make a decision about the future of this company.

IT IS NECESSARY TO RECOGNIZE THAT IN 2004, IF ICELAND STILL BENEFITED FROM ONE ROBUST REPUTATION IN THE INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT, THE BUSINESS OF WATER WAS THERE PRECARIOUS …

Indeed, I knew about twenty companies which had tried the business of the Icelandic water and had wiped severe lapel. In 2004, there was not more than a single company which ventured so in this business sector.

HOW THEN BUILT ITSELF THE DNA PREMIUM OF ICELANDIC GALCIAL THAT WE KNOW TODAY?

I very fast realized that the market of the water could be divided into three segments: the cheap water, the average in mass-market retailing and the premium water. During the previous decade, the market of the water had increased on average by 9 %, whereas that some water premium had known a 18 % increase. It is there that there was business to be made! By looking closer at the setting-up of the French company. Evian, I noticed that if it was the incontested leader at the world level in waters top of the range, the American market was not favorable to this water. There was a company of the Fiji Islands which had a stronger position in this premium sector. When we studied it closely with Kristjan, we discovered that the secret of their success based on a marketing strategy centred on. Hollywood, and more particularly on the cinematographic industry. You imagine that 50 % of the total value of the world market comes from the United States and that this country produces only 20 % of the water consumption. Having worked during a large number of years in close collaboration with numerous big Hollywood producers, we decided with Kristjan to dash into this adventure on the step of the brand marketing Fiji Water side, and by advancing the values of well-being and quality appropriate for our mother country Iceland.

FINALLY, YOUR TEMPERAMENT " WORKAHOLIC " GOT OVER IT ON YOUR RETIRED MAN'S LIFE LONDONER?

If I am a real drug-addict of the work, it is important to understand that to survive in Iceland, you must be capable of making many things. Most of people have more than an employment and I have never forgotten, throughout my route, that my mother was born in a house of earth ground.

 WITH HINDSIGHT, YOU WERE CONSCIOUS OF THE ADVENTURE THAT YOU GO TO LIVE WITH ICELANDIC GLACIAL?

If I had known, in 2004, what I know today, I would never have gone to this adventure. In fact, we thought of the time to be able to make this operation for less than 12 million dollars and today we are with my partners for a 120 million dollar investment there. What makes that with Kristjan we detain 44 % of the society. You cannot imagine all the events by which we passed so that today Icelandic Glacial is distributed in the United States by Anheuser-Busch, one of five American leading players, because it holds detains 50 % of the market of the beer with brands as Budweiser. Without speaking about our setting-up (presence) about it China, for which I have just acquired the company society. Pacific Water and Drinks, based in Hong-Kong, which distributes in particular certain brands of the group Coca-Cola, of which Maid, on all Asia Times. I shall always remember that in 2008, having inaugurated our new factory of 22 000 m ², the crisis passed there obliging me to reduce all the staff and to wonder certain Fridays if it was not my duty to declare a state of bankruptcy. I waited on Mondays and the business affairs started again with a new opportunity somewhere on one of five continents

 AT THE SAME TIME, IN 2010 YOU DID NOT HESITATE TO SEND IN HAITI, AFTER THE EARTHQUAKE, MORE THAN A MILLION DOLLARS OF WATER IN BOTTLES ICELANDIC  GLACIAL TO HELP TO THE POPULATION …

Help persons who have just lost everything, this has nothing to do with the crisis. Our source is of a phenomenal size because it is about a big underground river fed by some snow and some rainwater passing by the lava of volcanoes. This river cross-pours every day in the ocean twice the daily world consumption of bottled water. Our natural process of filtration sets between 400 and 600 years and confers on our water of the exceptional alkaline qualities. Its pH of 8,4, completely unique, has real effects on the human body. What seemed to me to be able to contribute, in its quite small scale, in the needs of the Haitians in this terrible moment.

FORTS TO HAVE BEEN THE FIRST BRAND OF WATER"CARBON NEUTRAL", YOU ARE ALSO THE FIRST BRAND TO HAVE DEVELOPED A COBRANDING WITH DIOR. HOW WAS BORN THIS IDYLL?

To boost his brand Diorsnow establish on the market it Asian, the house Dior looked for a water with outstanding virtues. Having made analyze all the waters in bottles known on the planet, the leaders from Dior came to see us to see if we could work together on this state-of-the-art range in the field of the cosmetic. For them, our water was unique because it offers incomparable virtues. From there was born a so unique partnership and an opportunity for us to be known on an international scale by being associated with a brand symbolizing the search for the eternal youth.