Sparkling Waters Rise From the South

This article originally appeared on on Feb. 14, 2018. Savannah Distributing Co. represents Montane Sparkling Spring Water and features that portion of the story. To read the entire article, click here.

By Martin Caballero, Assistant Editor, BevNET

Sparkling water’s next wave has a Southern feel to it.

While recent news in the category has been dominated by major moves by PepsiCo and Nestlé Waters North America along with the continued ascent of LaCroix, sparkling water is attracting interest from young and nimble startups looking to take a piece of the $2.5 billion market for zero-calorie fizzy water. And lately, a notable portion of those upstart brands are coming from down South in places like Georgia and Texas.

Montane Goes Straight to the Source

When Hollis Callaway, founder of Montane Sparkling Spring Water, decided to leave his finance job at a large corporation, he recognized a business opportunity based around his family-owned spring in the Pine Mountains of Georgia. That’s not to say, however, that he envisioned starting a family business.

“I love my dad, we get along great and I want to keep it that way,” Hollis told BevNET in a call last week. To produce Montane, Callaway buys water from Blue Springs, owned by the his family since the 1930s and located on over 1,000 acres of protected watershed. While Montane and Blue Springs are separate entities, the source water — or, more broadly, the company’s deep local ties — are at the heart of the brand’s strong initial growth.

“The branding process began with the story of the spring,” Callaway said. “I wanted to communicate a sense of place, a story of the exceptional spring that is protected in perpetuity. We are embracing where we are from by using out regional flavors and advertising our source on the packaging.”

Callaway explained that, relative to springs that flow through carbon-based rock, like limestone and dolomite, the silicon-based quartzite bedrock in his family’s spring offers a unique taste and mouthfeel. The mineral content is considerably less, giving it a crisp, lighter taste that is enhanced with carbonation.

Montane’s three varieties — Original (unflavored), Cucumber Lime and Meyer Lemon Honeysuckle — are meant to further cultivate the brand’s connection to local tastes. Callaway said the brand focused on flavors that people in the South would be familiar with, noting how honeysuckle has a nostalgic feel for many who grew up drinking nectar straight from the plant.

The unique sourcing and regional flavors gives Montane a point of differentiation amidst the competition, while pushing it towards the premium end of the category. Callaway said an 8-pack of 12 oz. cans is priced between $5.29 and $5.99.

While Callaway said his plan is to build slowly, the brand’s local angle has already given it a fast start in its home state. Having established a presence at independent retailers and restaurants in Atlanta over the past year, in January Montane inked a deal with grocery chain Publix to carry the water at select stores in Georgia and the Southeast. The line was also added to the portfolio of Georgia-based beverage distributor Savannah Distributing Co., which services local restaurants, bars and convenience stores.