Vichy Catalan
 

The origins and first few decades of the history of Vichy Catalan are closely connected with the figure of doctor Modest Furest y Roca. Dr. Furest was born in Sant Pol de Mar on 20 February 1852 and graduated in medicine and surgery at the University of Barcelona in 1873, where he came into contact with the most advanced scientific thinking of the time.

It was through practising his profession in Girona and the local environs that the young doctor Furest first learned of the natural springs in Caldes de Malavella. In 1880 and 1881 he purchased the properties that included the thermal springs of Vichy Catalan and the adjacent land, with the aim of building a spa establishment that would make use of the waters in question. The waters were declared of public utility by Royal Order on 5 March 1883, and their use in bottled form was registered. From that moment on, doctor Furest concentrated his efforts on spreading the word about their beneficial properties, and began the rounds of the principal national and international exhibitions, winning the highest awards and recognition for Vichy Catalan.

Shortly after Vichy Catalan was made a registered brand name on the first of May 1890, the plant for bottling the waters under that name was inaugurated. Once the legal formalities for the marketing of the waters were completed, the building project for the health spa began to take shape and the master builder Francesc Salvat was entrusted with its supervision. The first section of the spa was opened on 12 June 1898. Work on the spa required large sums of investment and doctor Furest looked for partners to help see the project through. He eventually managed to get financing from four great men who had made their fortunes in Cuba. Bonaventura Blay y Milà, Josep Ferrer y Torralbas, Josep Serradell y Amich and Josep Vias Camps were the founder members, along with Modest Furest i Roca, of the Sociedad Anónima Vichy Catalan (Vichy Catalan Company Limited), on 16 June 1900. The new company set up headquarters in Barcelona, at Rambla de las Flores number 18. A year later, the partners were to be joined by another "americano" (the term for Spaniards who returned rich from the Americas), Antoni Serra y Ferret.

One of the first initiatives undertaken by the new company was the enlargement of the health spa under the direction of the architect Gaietà Buigas y Monravà and, from 1901 onwards, the architect Manuel Almeda. The work was completed by the start of the 1904 season. The following year the need for a new bottling plant became apparent as the old one could not cope with the demand and the machinery had become obsolete.

The production and distribution of Vichy Catalan grew substantially up until 1936, hand in hand with the prestige of the health spa. However, these favourable conditions of constant growth were brought to an abrupt halt with the outbreak of civil war, when the company Vichy Catalan was confiscated and the spa turned into a military hospital.

After the war, the forties were a time of hardship and of readjustments in the company. The headquarters were moved to Calle Roger de Llúria, 126, in Barcelona. During the fifties Vichy Catalan became consolidated as the market leader of bottled waters when, in 1959, it inaugurated the "Novísima" ("the very newest") - an automated line for washing, filling, capping and labelling the bottles, which marked the first step on the long road towards automation.

Production and sales of Vichy Catalan water continued to grow in the sixties and, in the years following, the company again consolidated its position as market leader. Then, in the eighties, the company initiated its expansion policy with the purchase of other companies and brands of natural mineral waters. At the same time, it showed particular interest in reintroducing the services that had made the Vichy Catalan health spa famous, coinciding with a time when society too was looking for ways to improve the quality of life. Health and physical wellbeing have become a precious asset that needs to be preserved.

In 1990 Grupo Vichy Catalan was created, consisting of the companies S.A. Vichy Catalan and Malavella S.A, both located in Caldes de Malavella (Girona); Fontdor S.A., with its spring in San Hilario Sacalm (Girona); Agua Las Creus S.A. in Maçanet de Cabrenys (Girona) and Font del Regás, S.A., situated in the Montseny Natural Park, in Arbúcies (Girona). The expansion policy continued in late 1994 with the purchase of the Galician company Aguas de Mondáriz- Fuente del Val, S.A. and in 1999 the firm's diversification strategy was behind its participation in the fruit juices market with the purchase of the company Jugos Canarios which produces "Lambda" fruit juices and nectars.

Grupo Vichy Catalan endeavours to contribute to society through its business activities by sponsoring cultural, sporting and civic and social events. Furthermore, it has set itself up as one of the defenders and disseminators of water culture by promoting the foundation of the Cofradía Gastronómica del Agua (Water Gastronomy Fraternity) in 1995. One event well worth highlighting in the Group's history was the selection of Vichy Catalan and Font d'Or as the waters for the XXVth Olympic Games hosted by Barcelona in 1992.

The Group's products come under the most stringent quality controls. In 1996, the international certifying agency Der Norske Veritas (DNV) granted Vichy Catalan the ISO 9001 quality standard which certifies supreme quality with maximum safety guarantees throughout the whole of the bottling, marketing, distribution and design processes for Vichy Catalan natural mineral water. On 17 February 2003 this ISO 9001 quality certificate was renewed on the basis of the new, revised ISO 9001:2000 standard. The health spa is also subject to these standards. In 2004 the Vichy Catalan Spa Hotel was awarded the UNE EN ISO 9001:2000 certification for accommodation and catering, audited by the company Tüv, and also obtained the Q for Quality awarded by the certifying committee of the Spanish Tourist Quality Institute (ICTE).

The health-giving properties of Vichy Catalan water have come under study ever since its history first began. Recent investigations have shown that Vichy Catalan water has positive effects on the body in a way that was unknown up to now. In 2004, the prestigious American magazine "The Journal of Nutrition" published the study conducted by Dr. Pilar Vaquero of the Nutrition and Food Science Institute of the Centro Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (Higher Council of Scientific Research) (CSIC) on the cardiovascular effects of Vichy Catalan water. The CSIC made public the results of a second study confirming that Vichy Catalan helps to lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol.

Over the past few years the company has increased its investment and continued with improvements. In 1999 the machinery in the bottling plant of Vichy Catalan in Caldes de Malavella (Girona) was renewed for the purpose of making recyclable, screw-top glass bottles as well as for modifying the design of the labels, which means that the company now makes and sells reusable and recyclable bottles.

Between 2001 and 2003 a new building was erected in the Vichy Catalan Spa Hotel for hosting banquets, conventions and company meetings, with a useful area of 2,700 sq.m. A new kitchen was also added, to allow catering for 1000 meals daily, to cover the growing demand of guests at the spa, at weddings, at conventions and other events held there.

The entrepreneurial and professional excellence of the men and women in Grupo Vichy Catalan is what is at the heart of its social recognition. Since 2003 S.A. Vichy Catalan has been a part, as one of the 60 full-rights members, of the Asociación de Marcas Renombradas (AMRE) (the Renowned Brands Association), which, together with the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Spanish Institute of Foreign Trade (ICEX) make up the 'Forum of Renowned Spanish Brands' (FMRE).

On 30 September 2005, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism awarded Vichy Catalan the only gold Tourist Merit prize, and the corresponding diploma, in recognition of its outstanding contribution in favour of the Spanish tourist sector. The prize was given personally by His Majesty King Juan Carlos I to Joan B. Renart y Montalat, chief executive of S.A. Vichy Catalan, on 5 October 2005.

The new machinery installed at the Vichy Catalan bottling plant (Caldes de Malavella) between 2006 and 2007 has improved not only the company's production capacity but also the safety of the bottling process as a whole. Continuous improvement in technology, to afford consumers every possible assurance in terms of quality and safety, is one of the key strategies in the Vichy Catalan Group policy on quality.

December 2006 marked the inauguration of the first Vichy Catalan Bar & Café in Tokyo's biggest shopping and leisure area (Japan).

2007 saw the celebration of events commemorating Vichy Catalan's 125th anniversary. The Spanish Federation of Chefs and Pastry Chefs (FACYRE) organised a nationwide tribute in recognition of the emblematic brand's business record and its longstanding support for the catering sector. The event was held on 8 October 2007 at the Convention and Exhibition Hall in Madrid, with one thousand people attending and with the participation of 125 Madrid restaurants, which prepared over 50 different appetisers. Well-known personalities from the world of gastronomy were there, such as Salvador Gallego, Luis Cepeda, José María Rubio, Juan José Lapitz, Félix Artalejo, and the chef Sergi Arola. Chefs of the standing of Ferran Adrià, Juan Mari Arzak, Martín Berasategui, Koldo Royo and Santi Santamaria also lent their support.

On 12 November, the tribute organised by the Catalan Cookery Institute and the Catering Guilds and Schools of Catalonia was held in Barcelona, to commemorate Vichy Catalan's 125-year history and its outstanding contribution towards the development of catering and gastronomy here. Prominent names from today's Catalan cuisine, such as Carme Ruscalleda, Ferran Adrià, Santi Santamaria, Joan Roca, Mey Hofmann and Xavier Mestres, participated with their support. The event was held in the Oval Room of the Palau Nacional de Catalunya, with one thousand people from the hotel and catering sector attending: over 500 professional caterers, 450 pupils from Catalonia's catering schools, the members of the Confraria de l'Aigua, and other personalities and authorities.

Other entities also joined in this commemoration of the brand's 125th anniversary, offering their recognition in different events held around the country: the Confraria Vasca de Gastronomia paid tribute to Vichy Catalan in December 2007, in San Sebastian, as part of the events celebrating their XXXIII Chapter. In 2008, the brand received the recognition of the Associació Catalana Amics de l'Aigua with the 2008 Water Award for its 125th anniversary; the Enxebre Xuntanza do Percebe awarded it the Silver Barnacle Grand Trophy during the Galicia Celebrations in Barcelona. In Oviedo, the Spanish Catering Federation gave Vichy Catalan the award for its extensive business history, and at the XXII Edition of the International Gourment Fair, hosted by Madrid, Vichy Catalan was proclaimed historic water of Spanish gastronomy. It also received recognition from the Barcelona Bakers' Guild.

In 2008, the Vichy Catalan group entered into an exclusive agreement with Futbol Club Barcelona to supply all the group's premises with water and to become the football club's official supplier. Under this agreement, the Vichy Catalán group was able to raise its brand profile not only at the team's headquarters, but also during match broadcasts and at press conferences.

That same year, Vichy Catalan and Font d'Or were declared "Historic Waters of Spanish Gastronomy" at the 22nd Salón Internacional del Club del Gourmet (International Gourmet Club Exhibition) and were recognised by the FEHR for their 125th anniversary.

In 2009, the National Employers' Association awarded the Group the Carles Ferrer Salat prize and Medals of Honour for Development 2009 during an event for the Catalonian and nationwide business and entrepreneurial community. Vichy Catalan received the Internationalisation Prize at the same event.

The Group's expansion strategy has enabled it to find niches for its products in the best businesses in markets around the world. The company's CEO, Mr Joan B. Renart Montalat accepted the prize from the Chairman of Employment Development.

The Vichy Catalan Group has continued to receive recognition in recent years. In 2010, the Fundación ICIL held the 6th Edition of the Excellence in Logistics Awards, recognising Vichy Catalán with one of its prizes and in 2011, professionals from the hotel, catering, nutrition and bartending industries recognised Font d’Or for its quality.

In 2012, Vichy Catalan presented a new way of communicating the brand using more contemporary language at the Gran Teatre del Liceu. Giving the brand greater visibility and attracting younger consumers are Vichy Catalan's main objectives for 2012. To achieve them, Vichy Catalan is forging ahead to rejuvenate the brand, adopting a more contemporary, fresher, youthful language, suitable for modern times.