Haws test: Reno firm blows big markets out of water

When Haws Corp. decided to test-market a new line of filtered-water dispensers, the Sparks company naturally took a look at some of the nation’s biggest markets such as Los Angeles, Atlanta and Dallas.

But then, just wanting the ability to visit easily and in-depth with someone nearby who was selling the Brita Hydration Station, the company decided to add Truckee Meadows Water Systems Inc. of Reno to the test-market lineup.

A surprise: The Reno company owned by Michael Guidara outsold firms in the bigger markets by a wide margin.

“Mike has blown the other markets out of the water,” says Katy Hess, a communications manager with Haws Corp.

Haws Corp., which has been making drinking fountains, industrial showers and eyewash systems for more than a century, began manufacturing and marketing the Brita Hydration System in 2009, licensing the brand from The Clorox Company.

The system provides filtered water that consumers use to fill their own reusable bottles, reducing the number of plastic bottles that end up in landfills. (The nonprofit Recycle Across America estimates that Americans toss 2.5 million plastic bottles an hour.)

The original Brita Hydration System was wall-mounted, and the line extensions tested by Haws Corp. this autumn add free-standing as well as countertop units.

Haws executives wanted extensive feedback from potential customers and figured the best way to do that was through a test-marketing program within a few miles of their corporate office.

Explains Guidara: “They’re local. We’re local.”

And the test provided more that just data. Truckee Meadows Water System has been selling 40 to 60 of the units a month — that’s from a standing start in July — and Guidara says potential customers have been calling on their own to talk with salespeople.

“We’ve been on a tear,” he says.

Hess says the Truckee Meadows Water Systems’ staff of 13 also has generated substantial amounts of useful information from potential customers, information that will help Haws Corp. decide whether to undertake a full-scale rollout.

The new product, she says, would be rolled out early next year after the completion of market tests at the end of this month.


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