JUST Water Taps Ira Laufer As CEO; Kara Rubin Joins

Ethically sourced spring water brand JUST Water has completed a pair of managerial moves, appointing CPG veteran Ira Laufer as its new CEO and tapping former Whole Foods regional director Kara Rubin as vice president of brand and product strategy.

JUST markets a 100 percent spring water sourced from the Adirondack Mountains packaged in a 16.9 oz. paper-based bottle made from 82 percent renewable resources. The company is backed by an array of investors, including superstar DJ Calvin Harris, Grammy-winning singer Lionel Ritchie, actor Will Smith and his son, actor Jaden Smith.

Laufer joins the company after a four-year tenure as COO at Red’s Natural Food. He served in same position at Vitalicious for eight years prior. In an interview with BevNET, he said he was motivated by the “social and environmental impact that I could be a part of.”

“I share the responsibility, the mission, the urge to accelerate the transition to sustainable drinking,” he said in a call with BevNET.

Laufer noted that JUST’s positioning as a mission-driven, rather than product-driven, brand wouldn’t mean a lack of innovation from the the brand; a yet-to-be-revealed beverage line extension is expected to debut sometime around Q4 of this year.

“There will be a lot innovation; it’s the essence of the company to make a platform and leverage the brand name,” he said. “We will be looking at additional categories and as long as it aligns with our mission statement, we are open to snack to beauty to anything that would fit.”

JUST has made several distribution gains in recent months; the brand launched a new 6-pack at Stop & Shop last November, and landed placement at East Coast convenience store chain Wawa in January.

However, Laufer noted that “there’s a lot more going on” in landing JUST Water at hotels and sponsored events, such as February’s Air + Water Festival in Los Angeles. He emphasized that the brand’s environment-driven ethos helps its partners communicate a message to consumers that the mission is bigger than the product itself.

“If [partners] bring JUST to their stores or their hotels, they make a statement that they are in this journey with us to make an environmental impact that goes way beyond margins and profitability,” he said.

For Rubin, who spent nearly 10 years leading the Northeast grocery unit for Whole Foods and is a co-founder of brand incubator Beyond Brands, the move was motivated by an interest in the improving the quality of food systems. After observing the strength of the platform and the company’s partnership with the natural grocery chain, she said she saw an opportunity to focus her experience on helping to build a single brand.

“Given the breadth of conversation about clean-label, better-for-you products, I think the market is primed to extending that conversation to this kind of packaging,” she said.