Look out, Topo Chico. An Austin-based upstart is coming for you.
Two years after it was first announced, Rambler limestone-filtered sparkling water is set to hit store shelves late this summer. There have been a lot of challenges along the way, but the product’s backers, including several well-known Austinites such as James Moody, say they never stopped believing.
“We had to change directions a few times,” said Moody, who owns The Mohawk live music venue and the Guerilla Suit advertising agency. “We’re so sensitive to making sure we do this right.”
One of the biggest obstacles was finding a place to produce Rambler. As luck would have it, Austin Beerworks recently expanded and had extra capacity at its facility in North Austin.
“They initially didn’t have any interest in working with anyone outside of their own business,” Moody said. “We approached them and when they realized there was no local option out there for sparkling water, they said, ‘We wouldn’t normally do this, but we want to work with you.’”
The sparkling water – billed as a “soda alternative” – will be sold in six-packs of 12-ounce cans. A price has not yet been set.
“Our recent brewery expansion created lots of fun opportunities for us, but helping Rambler get up and running has been the most exciting,” said Austin Beerworks co-founder Michael Graham. “The Rambler team shares our company values, passion for delicious carbonated beverages and love of all things Texas.”
While the Rambler team had initially envisioned their product in bottles, like Topo Chico, Moody said canned waters – such as LaCroix – have become more popular lately, in addition to being “better for the environment and better for economics.”
“If you look at what’s happening locally and nationally, people are actually drinking way more LaCroix,” Moody said. “LaCroix is something you have in your fridge all the time, while Topo Chicos are only once in a while.”
Moody, for instance, who says he was “hooked” on Diet Coke for many years, says he goes through 12 to 14 LaCroixs a day at work, while typically downing Topo Chicos only when he’s out and about.
In addition to Moody, the team behind Rambler includes Leo Kiely, former CEO of MillerCoors; Bill Kiely, owner and director of Windowseat Entertainment; Jay Russell, chief creative officer for GSD&M; Jeff Trucksess, a partner in Solcharge; and Dave Mead, an Austin-based photographer and director.
All say they are committed to producing Rambler with sustainability in mind. To that end, they plan to donate a portion of the proceeds to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation.
“We’re pleased to partner with Rambler, a Texas-based company that is helping to promote conservation of Texas lands and waters,” said Anne Brown, the foundation’s executive director. “We applaud Rambler for their conservation-minded approach to launching this new endeavor.”
When it debuts, plans call for Rambler to initially be distributed in the Austin area, using the Austin Beerworks distribution network. That, Moody says, means the 600 or so customers – primarily bars, restaurants, convenience stores and grocers – already carrying Austin Beerworks products will be first in line to get Rambler.
Over time, the goal is to go wider, perhaps taking Rambler into other Texas cities.
“For us to be bringing a local, healthier option to the marketplace, I’m stoked,” Moody said.