Hunting ‘Unicorn’: Svalbarði hoping participants on reality TV investment show pull trigger on 800-kroner iceberg water


In the first-ever episode of “The Apprentice” a guy tried to win a lemonade stand challenge by charging $1,000 a glass in the hope of making a single sale (he failed and was fired soon afterward). So by comparison, asking ordinary folks if they’re cool paying a mere $100 for a bottle of Svalbarði’s “super-premium” iceberg water ought to be a smooth sell.


Unlike the stuff free from the tap, it takes a considerable amount of money and effort to collect and process the icebergs used to make Svalbarði’s “super premium” bottled water. Photo courtesy of Svalbarði.

Or so Jamal Qureshi, founder of the company, is hoping as his product – which has attracted plenty of sensational and scathing headlines worldwide – will featured this fall on the new reality TV show “The Unicorn,” which producers claim is a hybrid of “Shark Tank” and “American Idol.” The show features business owners and entrepreneurs who present their ideas and give audience members a chance to buy shares in companies through crowdsourcing websites.

Qureshi, who achieved great success getting Svalbarði’s on shelves at Harrods and great shame getting the bottles quickly yanked from shelves in Hong Kong due to outraged customers, knows he’s in for a challenging pitch.

“Half the people we speak with are like, ‘That is the most brilliant thing I’ve ever heard,’ and half the people (say) ‘This is the worst thing I’ve ever heard,’” he told Yahoo News.

Qureshi has long justified the 800-kroner cost for a 750-milliliter bottle (or a mere 400 kroner if purchased in Svalbard) due to the enormous cost of collecting iceberg chunks from Isfjorden, processing/storing/shipping the water, and the custom-designed bottle meant as a keepsake. In his interview with Yahoo News, he also noted there is a growing market for premium wines, chocolates, olive oil, craft beer, and other everyday foods and beverages.

“This is a much more niche product and it fits into a luxury item category as much or more than it does into a bottled water category,” he said. “Most of our customers are actually very middle-class. It’s like an affordable luxury. If you’re just thinking water, that’s where people get skeptical; you wouldn’t pay that much for water.”

Reader comments on Yahoo – typically either comedy gold or everything wrong with the internet, depending on your point of view – are living up to form and suggest the water’s deep divisiveness may indeed make for a lively episode.

While the “pro” comments aren’t entirely complimentary (i.e. “I would invest just because there are a lot of stupid people in the world and you can bank on that”), there are some creative pitches for certain “high-end” markets.

“When chilled, it helps fight off hot flashes. When warmed, it can be used to treat frostbite,” wrote someone with a username of BRJN2, adding in a separate comment. “Never mind investing in this company. I want a copy of the customer list – they obviously have extra money on their hands.”

And while comparisons to “The Apprentice” might seem cliched or irritating, nine of the 36 reader comments at the time this was published reference Donald Trump or indirectly.

“The people who sell this water are sociopaths,” wrote a commenter using the name Llamas4. “The people who buy it are idiots. Just pair them all up and force them to mate, and in a few decades we’ll have a yuge amount of presidential material.”