In response to the growing amount of plastic water bottle use, JUST Water founders and actors Will and Jaden created a water brand infused with sustainability. The Glens Falls, N.Y.-based brand was inspired by Jaden Smith’s concern about plastic garbage he saw in the ocean while surfing. According to Euromonitor International, the world uses nearly 500 billion plastic water bottles each year. In addition, researchers predict that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by the year 2050.
With the support of the Smith family and several investors — including actors Moises and Mateo Arias, basketball player Luol Deng, professional DJ and music producer Calvin Harris, actress Queen Latifah, DJ Nova and singer-songwriter Lionel Richie, among others — JUST Water launched a packaged water product that is “better for everyone.”
The beverage production process starts in the Glens Falls watershed in the Adirondack Mountains. “Finding a sustainable water source was the primary motivator,” JUST Water Chief Executive Officer Ira Laufer explains of the sourcing choice. “For us, that meant [choosing] not only a watershed with a substantial amount of water that could support the community’s needs as well as those of our business but also one that would achieve that goal reliably over time.”
The 6.2-square-mile watershed annually collects 3 billion gallons of water from snow and rain. The city of Glens Falls uses approximately half of that, and JUST Water uses about 3 percent of the excess water, according to the brand’s website. Although this natural resource is an excess for the community, JUST Water voluntarily pays six times the local water rate in order to honor the value of the natural resource and help the Glens Falls community maintain its local water infrastructure, the company says.
To ensure that brand growth does not have an adverse affect on the watershed, JUST Water also partners with a team of local hydrogeologists to monitor the health of the water tables and the surrounding support systems. This affirms that JUST Water is operating sustainably and allows the brand to better support local revitalization efforts, it adds.
The water’s packaging also was created with sustainability in mind. The carton is made from 82 percent renewable resources and 54 percent Forest Stewardship Council–certified, responsibly harvested trees. Its cap is a bioplastic made from sugarcane. Compared with a PET bottle, JUST Water’s package offers a 74 percent reduction in carbon emissions, Laufer says.
In addition, the company designed the carton to be used multiple times prior to recycling. “The carton’s unique shape makes it easy to not only hold and drink, but the wide mouth also makes it easy to refill, which is something we encourage folks to do if they have access to good tap water,” Laufer explains. The company isn’t concerned that this tactic could adversely affect sales. “Where quality tap water is available, we’re always going to encourage people to consider opting for it,” Laufer explains. “It’s the right thing to do.”
After launching exclusively in Whole Foods Market stores in 2015, the 100 percent pure spring water brand is being distributed at other grocery retailers nationwide, including Kroger, The Fresh Market, Hy-Vee, WaWa and many others. The product also is available at Amazon.com and justwater.com. In addition, JUST Water develops distribution programs with mission-aligned partners. As a result, the brand is the exclusive bottled water for more than 60 public and private schools; travel and hospitality venues including 1 Hotels, the Ace Hotel chain and The Surf Lodge; and cultural locations like the Houston Zoo, Columbia’s Riverbanks Zoo & Garden, the Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center and many other public venues across the country.
Infused with flavor
Growth and innovation for the brand is not stopping there. In February, JUST Water rolled out a line of JUST Infused waters. The three new waters — Organic Lemon, Organic Tangerine and Organic Apple Cinnamon — utilize the same sustainable package and spring water but include a touch of organic fruit and spice essence, Laufer explains. “[The flavors] are all evocative of the experience of putting a slice of fruit in your water glass to liven it up a bit,” he says. “The flavors are subtle, authentic and refreshing.”
In line with the brand’s standards of quality and transparency, JUST Water opted to use organic essences instead of natural flavors to enhance the spring water while maintaining a clean label. “Essences are made by distilling water with a fruit rind or puree,” Laufer explains. “The condensed water that’s the result of the distillation process is intensely flavored with whatever you use to start. We’re basically adding water to our water.”
The new flavors currently are rolling out at select Kroger’s, Whole Foods Market, Giant Eagle, Target and other major grocery chains.
As the brand continues to grow, JUST Water will keep its sustainability mission at the forefront. “We’re actively thinking ahead to the next step we take toward pushing the boundaries on sustainable packaging and ethical sourcing,” Laufer says. This important strategy will enable JUST Water to keep supporting the Glens Falls community and the earth, he adds. BI