Just Koz: New Canned Water Company Looks to Change the World, Starting in Canby

A new, Portland-based beverage startup is looking to open a can on the billion-dollar bottled water industry, and they’re starting right here in Canby.

Koz Water is, well, basically just water. It’s purified water, using a 12-step process, including active charcoal filtering, micron traps and high-intensity UV lights, but at the end of the day, it’s water.

What makes it special is the package it comes in, and the reason for it. Koz Water comes in cans — only in cans — and they want to change the way America drinks water.

Marcelle Abel, founder of Koz Water and a former Marine Corps reservist, says she enlisted immediately after the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks because she wanted to be part of the solution. That’s her goal again; only the cause is different.

Now, she’s fighting to reverse the catastrophic damage single-use plastic bottles are having on the environment. Her solution: Simply replace them with aluminum cans.

“In a perfect world, everyone would be drinking out of reusable water bottles. But unfortunately, humans aren’t perfect,” Abel says. “We might forget, run out of water on a trip, or in the worst-case scenario, not have access to fresh drinking water at all — like the people of Flint, Mich. It’s our aim to make a dent in an imperfect world.”

To her and her husband, Edward Abel, co-owner of Koz Water, aluminum cans just make more sense than single-use plastic bottles. Though both are recyclable, and in many states (including Oregon), both have redeemable deposits, the fact remains that most aluminum cans actually are recycled; most plastic bottles are not.

Indeed, a single-use aluminum can is more than 90 percent more likely to be recycled than a plastic bottle containing the identical product. By contrast, 80 percent of plastic bottles never get recycled, and they take over 700 years to break down. It’s become the default beverage packaging for one reason: it’s cheaper for manufacturers and consumers.

Also, aluminum recycles better than plastic. It can be melted down and reused over and over again, relatively cheaply and efficiently. Most plastics cannot.

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“Aluminum is one of the most highly recycled products on the planet,” Abel says. “75 percent of all aluminum produced in the U.S. is still in use today.”

The Abels started the company just about six months ago, and already have a market-ready product. And customers. Cutsforth’s Market, in Canby, is their first wholesale client.

“They are just so great,” she said of the Cutsforths. “They believed in us and put us out there. We’ve been doing a lot of education, talking to other grocery stores, but they understood it. They got it, and they said, ‘Let’s do it.'”

Koz Water can currently be found only in single cans, but will soon also be available in a 24-pack case, Abel says. She’s currently working to place Koz Water in other grocery and convenience stores, and anywhere someone might buy water — including Amazon (coming soon!).

The target customer is just like Marcelle Abel: health-minded, environmentally conscious and active, a mom with young children who will one day inherit the world in whatever state we leave it in.

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the Abels and their plucky little startup: Koz Water costs more than bottled alternatives — about 50 cents more, on average. (At Cutsforth’s, we found it for sale at $1.09 a can.)

But Abel believes “the average consumer cares about the environment and is looking for ways to make a difference.”

“I think many consumers are willing to pay a little extra for convenient products that are responsibly sourced,” she explained.

For more information, visit kozwater.com or hear our interview with Marcelle at the end of “Episode 141: ‘Turn It Up, Canby.'”

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