SUNTORY DIVISION IS WADING IN WITH A TEST OF THE WATER DEPOT

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Supermarkets may soon have to contend with another category killer -- the water store.Hinckley & Schmitt, a division of Suntory Water Group, Marietta, Ga., is testing The Water Depot -- a store selling the full line of Hinckley & Schmitt bottled water and water filtration systems, along with Mountain Valley water from Hot Springs, Ark., for which Suntory is the national

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Supermarkets may soon have to contend with another category killer -- the water store.

Hinckley & Schmitt, a division of Suntory Water Group, Marietta, Ga., is testing The Water Depot -- a store selling the full line of Hinckley & Schmitt bottled water and water filtration systems, along with Mountain Valley water from Hot Springs, Ark., for which Suntory is the national authorized distributor.

Water Depot, a 2,500-square-foot store, opened June 11, directly next door to a new prototype King Soopers store here. While some of the store's initial customers were King Soopers shoppers, Steven Faith, regional manager at Hinckley & Schmitt's regional headquarters in Denver, told SN the company is targeting a different customer.

"I don't think The Water Depot will cannibalize [King Soopers] too much, because the grocery business is so price-conscious, and not quality-conscious. They are big in the private-label business. We're big in the quality business," he said, noting that Hinckley & Schmitt is the only branded water to bear the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

When SN visited the store in late July, the Hinckley & Schmitt and Mountain Valley waters were merchandised from multilevel square fixtures that were open on all four sides.

"We are selling our full line of water. We have everything from a half-liter package all the way up to the 5 gallon, including gallon and 2.5-gallon jugs," he said.

The store also has a service desk along with a mock kitchen, so customers can see how a Hinckley & Schmitt water filtration system operates in a home.

By comparison, King Soopers merchandises its water in its Sooper City "Home of the American Snack . . . and Beverage!" department, which is located along the far side of the store, on the opposite end of the building from The Water Depot.

King Soopers stocks 24 linear feet of bottled water on six shelves. In addition to Hinckley & Schmitt and other national brands, the department also stocks flavored waters, carbonated waters and private-label offerings under the King Soopers and Kroger Big K brands.

Faith said Hinckley & Schmitt opened The Water Depot after receiving numerous requests from customers.