More than just another water package.
An Interview by Packaging News.
The Slades Beverages’ facility in Victoria is the location of the PKN-JUST Water pow-wow. I’m joined by Andrew Pooch, MD of packaging solutions company Tetra Pak Oceania, and George Tan, director of Slade Beverages, co-packer for the product. Dialled in from Los Angeles, where he’s overseeing the promotion of JUST Water at Expo West, is CEO of JUST Goods, Ira Laufer.
There’s a buzz in the room because this project has been many months in the works and is about to hit lift-off. Elsewhere in the facility the production line is filling and packing cartons on a new Tetra Top dual lane high-hygiene filling line with a capacity of 9000 bottles per hour. On the table in front us ‘newly minted’ JUST Water cartons take pride of place.
A Better Option.
Why the excitement over packaged water, you may ask? What is JUST Water? Perhaps the best way to answer the question is to start with what it’s not. It is not, nor does it purport to be, the ideal solution to reducing beverage packaging waste. That would surely be to drink tap water – where it’s potable and available – from a reusable vessel. But since bottled water remains in demand, and continues to be purchased in high volumes, finding a better solution to a plastic bottle is a decided step in the right direction.
This is the belief of brand founder and entrepreneur, actor Jaden Smith. As the story goes, Smith’s inspiration for JUST Water struck when he was surfing as a young child and saw plastic bottles polluting the ocean. He says: “I’ve always felt really connected to the ocean so when I learnt about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in school, then saw first-hand that there were plastic bottles floating around in the ocean – I knew we could come up with a better option.”
His sentiment is echoed by Ira Laufer, CEO of brand owner JUST Goods. Commenting on the uptake of the brand in its US launch market, and subsequently in the UK, Laufer says JUST Water has garnered a lot of attention globally in the face of the “depressing matter of plastic pollution”.
“What we have in JUST Water is a solution that allows 100 per cent spring water to be bottled close to or at source, in a container that is made from a combination of FSC-certified paper and plant-based materials.”
Andrew Pooch interjects to clarify the pack’s precise composition: “The paper-based carton is made from eighty-two per cent renewable resources – fifty-four per cent of the paper is made from Forest Stewardship Council certified and/or controlled wood sources and twenty-eight per cent is made of plant-based materials – the cap and shoulder.
“In packaging converting terms, there is around a seventy per cent reduction in carbon emissions over the lifecycle compared to a standard plastic bottle based on US LCA studies,” Pooch says. Furthering the sustainable production argument, Pooch adds, “And the shape of the finished pack also makes it space efficient on pallets and on shelves.”
Packed With Purpose.
“We want to become the most prominent and recognised sustainable water in Australia by offering people an alternative to the default plastic packaging for water,” Laufer says. “We’ve been impressed by how receptive the market has been to the product, and by the support on the ground from Tetra Pak and Slades.”
Pooch says the company has found in co-packer Slades Beverages not only a nimble business partner prepared to take a chance on a new venture, but one that has embraced sustainability across every facet of its business, from energy use to waste management, and to the type of packaging machinery it will invest in going forward.
Despite the tangible excitement around the product, and projected volumes that could potentially exceed supply, Laufer says that he is not expecting overnight success in Australia. “There’s still a lot of consumer education needed around the fact that this is not just another bottled water. We’re getting support from the retailers on this front, and we’ll be getting behind an education drive ourselves.”
“Whichever way you look at it, mindset and behaviour change is what we need when it comes to plastic pollution. JUST is positioned as an incremental change product,” Laufer says, adding that there are other carton-based water packages available in the US.
“We welcome eco-friendly competition, it drives awareness of the need for change, and grows the category,” Laufer says.
“What has worked for us is developing strategic partnerships with retailers who understand the philosophy of our business – this has seen us double our business last year and we’re looking at tripling it this year.
“Expanding into Australia is a key step in our global mission to give people access to a truly ethical water brand which will play a role in reducing the amount of plastic in the world’s oceans,” Laufer concludes.