By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor
Glens Falls-based JUST Water is adding three new infused flavors — tangerine, lemon and apple-cinnamon — and a smaller 330-milliliter container size.
JUST’s celebrity co-owner Jaden Smith — son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith — leads the roll-out this week.
He was to appear on The Today Show Wednesday, followed by a full-court media day, JUST Chief Operating Officer Jim Siplon told The Chronicle. The new flavors are heralded in bright orange, yellow and red versions of JUST’s paper-based packaging and graphics.
Mr. Siplon said JUST did extensive testing for its flavor initiative, bringing in consultants and focus groups (Glens Falls and SUNY Adirondack students, for example) to come up with the right “recipes.”
He said consumers preferred “good, crisp, clean tasting infused waters in flavors I have a frame of reference for.”
Mr. Siplon said JUST is using purchased essences derived from distillates — condensed steam collected while boiling source materials, he said.
“So, you’re basically adding water to water,” Mr. Siplon says. “There’s no solid material. It’s more aromatic than anything.”
“No one else is doing this in the state of New York. Infusing water with flavors, it doesn’t have a process yet.”
He terms “natural flavors” in many products “cheap and ubiquitous,” but says JUST’s are “uncommon and expensive.”
JUST Water retails at about $1.50 a bottle. Mr. Siplon said the flavors will be “perhaps a little more, but not significantly.”
Mr. Siplon said JUST’s infusion tank is unique, adapted from a milk-processing system to add electronically measured “eyedropper amounts” of essences as water is processed and bottled.
“We’re the only ones putting water in this packaging in the world,” Mr. Siplon says. It posed questions as to how any flavor addition might be impacted by or interact with the paper-based package. “That was the trick, and then, finding stuff that tasted, looked and smelled good,” he said.
Mr. Siplon’s daughter Emma, the staff chemist, leads much of the research process as well as determining quality control, shelf life expectations and such.
“We did an accelerated aging process using an incubator,” she says. It’s not so much that the waters could “go bad,” she says — “the only thing the essences can do is make the water more inert” — but there is a question of whether the smell and taste would change over time.
As for the new 330 milliliter container in addition to its original 500 milliliter size, Mr. Siplon says, “There’s a whole market for this — hospitality, airlines, anywhere where space is a premium. They use it as a differentiator. A lot of hotel chains are very sustainably oriented.” He said JUST also expects its 330 milliliter “bottles” will appeal to individual consumers for, say, school lunch boxes or athletics.
He detailed Jaden Smith’s sustainability efforts, including that he partnered with students at a California school to make JUST Water part of its sustainable campus. He said Mr. Smith would likely issue “a call to action to young people,” during the media roll-out on Wednesday.
“It’s not about selling a palette of water,” Mr. Siplon says is the message. “It’s about tapping into a shared sense of values.”
He says JUST is the market leader in water packaged in alternate containers. Other sustainably packaged waters are entering the market, but Mr. Siplon insists, “That’s not our competition. That’s about 2 percent of the market. To me, that’s progress. What we are competing against is that huge wall of plastic.”
Mr. Siplon wouldn’t reveal sales numbers but said, “We are in thousands and thousands of grocery stores, across all 50 states.” He said last year JUST used “a little over 1 million” gallons from springs in the Glens Falls watershed in Queensbury — “a tiny fraction” of the 25 million gallons a year they could use, by contract.
“We’re still not one of the largest users in the City of Glens Falls,” he said, “but we are putting thousands of dollars of revenues into the City,” that he says has gone to improve the infrastructure.
Mr. Siplon said he expects the new infused waters and mini-bottles will start showing up in stores by May.
JUST Water tour March 3
JUST Water Chief Operating Officer Jim Siplon will lead a program and tour starting on Saturday, March 3, at 10 a.m. at the Chapman Historical Museum on Glen Street in Glens Falls. The topic is “New Water Strategies & Solutions for the 21st Century” in conjunction with the exhibit “H2O: Water in History.”
After the Chapman talk, Mr. Siplon will lead a tour of JUST’s processing plant “a short walk from the museum.”
It’s free, but advance reservations are strongly suggested: 518-793-2826.
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