JUST Water, a producer of spring water products packaged in paper-based cartons, plans to debut a line of organic flavor-infused waters and additional carton sizes during the first quarter of 2018, according to Food Navigator.
Ira Laufer, CEO of the New York-based company, said the impetus for new products come from the belief that the paper-based water packaging market is growing faster than plastic bottles. JUST Water's cartons are 54% paper from certified forests, 28% plant-based plastic, 15% traditional plastic and 3% aluminum, Food Navigator reported.
JUST Water debuted in 2015 and is currently in more than 15,000 stores — including Whole Foods, Kroger, Stop & Shop and Wawa. It was recently certified as a B Corporation — meaning it meets certain standards for social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability — and aspires to help solve social and environmental problems.
JUST Water isn't the first company to come out with paper-based cartons or boxes for water products. In 2009, Boxed Water is Better was the first national company to offer an alternative to plastic water bottles, while Icebox Water brought its spring water in paper-based cartons to market in 2010. RETHINK Water debuted in 2016.
"We believe that packaged water should be healthy and pure, and that’s why Boxed Water is 100 percent BPA and phthalate free, free from impurities, or the things you don’t need," CEO Daryn Kuipers told Food Dive in April. "People are looking to live healthier lives and to make better choices everyday — including the impact of the choices they make at checkout. This can be as simple as choosing water over soda, and further choosing the more sustainable option of boxed water."
Rethink Brands operates on a similar ethos, but the company has found it challenging to overcome consumer expectations for plastic bottled water.
“People are so trained to drink water out of a plastic bottle, when you put it in a different form they wonder if it’s coconut water or juice or milk. That’s why educating consumers is our top priority,” Rethink Brands CEO Matthew Swanson told Food Dive last June. “Our trail was low but repeat is high, so we know that if we can get the product into people’s hands, they will come back and buy it again. It will take time, but people are starting to understand more about what box water is.”
Bottled water surpassed carbonated soft drinks in 2016 to become the largest beverage category by volume in the U.S., according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation. Health advocates are cheering, but some environmentalists have been less than thrilled. Studies show 50 billion water bottles are consumed every year — about 30 billion in the U.S. alone — and the negative environmental impact is huge. Producing plastic bottles takes three times the amount of water that’s actually contained inside of them, and only about 30% of plastic bottles are recycled.
To solve this problem, companies such as PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are developing biodegradable bottles made from ingredients such as mushrooms and seaweed. But while this strategy keeps plastic out of oceans and landfills, it also risks potentially diverting resources from food production, creating a different kind of environmental strain.
That's why DanoneWave and Nestle Waters partnered with California startup Origin Materials to create the NaturALL Bottle Alliance, an initiative working to produce water packaging made from discarded sustainable wood-based products such as cardboard and sawdust. The companies hope to produce at least 75% bio-based PET bottles by 2020 before scaling up to 95% in 2022.
While plastic water bottles and paper-based cartons are recyclable, most people don't take the trouble to return them to a recycling center. Environmentalists point out that plastic water bottles are made of completely recyclable PET plastics, which photodegrade — meaning they break down into smaller fragments over time. Those fragments then absorb toxins that pollute waterways, contaminate soil and sicken animals.
Along with additional paper-based carton sizes, JUST Water is following the latest beverage trends by rolling out a line of organic flavored waters this spring. Industry observers expect the strongest beverage growth in the near term to be among bottled and flavored waters, fueled by enhanced and healthier varieties. Due to consumer concerns over sugar content, juice sales are declining, according to Mintel, with a 7% drop in the market expected between 2016 and 2021.
Flavored water is helping to fill this void. According to Food Business News, global sales of flavored water reached 7.5 billion liters in 2015 and are expected to hit 9.5 billion by 2020.
Entering the flavored water space is a smart move for JUST Water, given the widespread consumer interest in healthier and lower-calorie products. Nestle — which introduced new flavored sparkling water products in 2015 and put $200 million into seven new U.S. production facilities — is heavily invested in this area, along with Coca-Cola's Dasani brand and PepsiCo's Aquafina. New flavored waters, coupled with more consumer-friendly packaging, might make JUST Water even more attractive to shoppers in the crowded beverage space.