By: AMANDA BARNETT
It was a 500-foot walk down the red carpet at this year’s Academy Awards, one likely littered with flurries of flashbulbs and flattery. Yuri Cataldo had celebrities hydrated for every awkwardly posed step.
Cataldo, an IU South Bend visiting lecturer in scene design, owns IndigoH2O, an artisanal line of bottled water included in this year’s Oscars gift bags.
IndigoH20 is a fitting name for the high alkaline mineral water bottled in blue glass. The brand is a product of Cataldo’s Glacier Bottling Company, which he started back in 2012.
That same year, Cataldo contacted the woman responsible for assembling the gift bags for celebrity events, including the award show.
“She loved the water so much that she put the water in the gift bags at the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards. Since then, I’ve cultivated a relationship with her because she loves the company and the water,” said Cataldo.
The water was also present in the 2013 Golden Globe gift bags.
Cataldo was contacted by the gift bag guru a week before the Academy Awards aired to see if he was interested in having his product featured again. He gladly accepted.
“The gift baskets I’m in are delivered the night before to their hotel rooms, hand-delivered by a courier to each individual star. They have to sign for it,” said Cataldo.
There are multiple kinds of Oscar night gift baskets. Some are delivered to the stars’ publicists.
Out of all the stars, Cataldo was most excited about Oprah Winfrey receiving IndigoH2O in her gift bag. He found out ahead of time that Winfrey would be receiving one.
Cataldo began his journey into artisanal aqua when he was in high school.
“I grew up with some health issues. I have a condition called Mediterranean Anemia. My red blood cells are smaller than the average persons”, said Cataldo.
He was exhausted all the time.
Iron supplements, the only prescribed treatment, didn’t work. Cataldo turned to natural methods, one of which was drinking a lot more water. The increase in consumption nourished Cataldo and a water obsession was born.
Cataldo went out of state to attend college for theatre. Upon graduating, he returned home to Indiana with his degree.
“I wanted to start a business because there wasn’t a lot of theatre happening at the time that could help pay for my student loans,” Cataldo said. “I was obsessed with bottled water so I just jumped in.”
The water comes from his parents’ personal property in Elkhart County. They have multiple wells and the water is bottled on-site. The water source is completely renewable.
IndigoH20 is not competing within the Nestle and Dasani water market. The water has a different composition, appealing to a more concentrated, niche market.
“So besides the fact that it tastes fantastic, it’s full of very valuable minerals that are found in the glacier aquifer ground water,” said Cataldo.
This is caused by water trickling down through limestone and other minerals found in the local ground. It is a natural filtration process that leaves the water full of calcium, potassium, magnesium and manganese. Minerals are easier for the body to absorb when they’re in water.
“The calcium gives the water its alkalinity. That’s what makes its different and special,” said Cataldo.
He has a few different machines that draw up the water from the earth. The machines separate the minerals from the water. The water gets cleansed and extracted minerals are added back in.
“The end result is this crisp, clean, pure water that’s free of any contaminants and pathogens,” said Cataldo.
The water wizard’s line won gold of its own at the 2015 Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting and the title of “best purified water in the world.”
His water is currently sold at Whole Foods in Mishawaka and at one Chicago branch of the chain. Sales have risen steadily via Internet since the Oscars.
“Because I’m a one-person shop, it’s all about creating a good product, talking to other people about it, finding what they’re really interested in and showing how the product can fill that need.”