JUST Water launched nationally in September in a cylindrical primarily paper Tetra Pak container that is more environmentally-friendly than the typical plastic bottle, according to Grace Jeon, the CEO of JUST.
“99% of the products [in the packaged water category] in terms of volume are made up of plastic. But there is a growing concern among consumers about the waste created by these bottles and health concerns about the amount of plastic coming in contact with their food,” Jeon said.
To address both of these issues, JUST opted to package its spring water in a Tetra Pak container that has not previously been used in the US or as a water container, Jeon said.
Jeon was quick to acknowledge that JUST is not the first company to use a paper carton for packaged water – that honor goes to Boxed Water Is Better. But it is the first one to use a more cylindrical shaped paper carton with beveled corners that feel familiar in the hands of consumers who are accustomed to plastic bottles. Boxed Water is packaged in rectangular cartons.
“Our package has the aesthetic of a traditional bottle, but the footprint of a paper-based package,” Jeon said.
She explained the Tetra Pak containeris a “more sustainable package option” because it is made primarily from a renewable resource and through a process that “is less impactful on the environment” than other materials commonly used for water.
Specifically, she said, production of the cartons creates 52% less carbon emissions than the average mid-weight plastic bottle. The cartons also are made from only Forest Stewardship Council certified trees, which ensure the product comes from well-managed forests.
A limitation on the environmental benefits of the carton though is that they cannot be recycled in all communities. This was a primary reason why Green Sheep, a packaged water startup, uses aluminum cans instead of the cartons.
Currently, only 55% of households in the US have access to carton recycling, according to Jeon. But, she said, this is up from the teens in 2008 and the Carton Council, with which JUST works, is aggressively working to expand carton recycling to more communities.
Jeon expects all communities to have carton recycling in the future, especially as more packaged goods come in cartons and the need for the service increases.
Jeon explained that adding carton recycling was not a priority for many communities until recently because previously only children’s juice boxes used the containers. But in recent years coconut waters, soups and other products have started coming in the packages, elevating the demand for recycling.
Ensuring a fresh taste
JUST Water and Tetra Pak worked closely for several years to extensively test and ensure the carton does not impact the taste of the water inside, which Jeon said would have been a deal-breaker.
She explained the company did not want to make any sacrifices on the bottle’s aesthetic or the taste – especially given how difficult it was to find a source for the water that was environmentally sound and met “the gold standard for taste.”
“Typically, most consumers like water profiles that are soft with a neutral pH and low mineral content,” said Jeon. And this is exactly what JUST found in Glens Falls, NY.
The “small town, USA,” community is situated at the base of the Adirondack Mountains and receives about 3 billion gallons of water annually – 1.7billlion of which goes unused, Jeon said.
This excess was another reason the firm was attracted to the town as a source for water, Jeon said, explaining it allows them to ethically source the water in a way that protects the watershed. She added JUST uses less than 2.5% of the excess yield to ensure the water is not over-sourced.
Finally, the company chose Glens Falls because it wanted to help the community, which has been hit hard by the difficult economic climate of recent years, Jeon said.
She explained the town has many abandoned buildings – one of which will be repurposed into a factor for JUST – and a need for jobs. She added that JUST will source 98% of the work for the bottled water from the town, which she says has a “big heart and desire to help.”
In addition to boosting the local economy with jobs and industry, JUST agreed to pay six times the local municipal rate for the water, which it says is worth it for the taste.
The premium also will help the city update its water treatment services – creating a win-win for the town and JUST, Jeon said.
She quickly added that just because her firm pays a premium for the water does not mean consumers will, too. Rather, she said, the bottles will sell for 99 cents at Whole Foods and OTG airport stores, which will make the uncompromising beverage accessible to more people.