When you think of Pine Mountain, Georgia, the Callaway Resort and Gardens or FDR State Park may come to mind.
When exploring the area, nestled in the Pine Mountain Ridge, the water of Blue Springs has been safeguarded by the Callaway family for four generations. It was initially purchased by Cason Calloway Sr., according to the Callaway Blue website.
Today, it continues to be the source of Callaway Blue bottled water for grocers across the Southeast.
“The spring is fed by the rainfall on that property which is now in a permanent conservation easement and is filtered by the quartzite rock of Pine Mountain – a ridge line that runs 100 miles along the fall line of Georgia,” said Ken Callaway (Cason’s grandson), president of Callaway Blue.
In 2000, Cason Callaway Jr., Ken’s father, hired cave divers from Florida to explore the spring. With help from consultants, he developed a business plan to extract the water and build a plant to bottle it.
“It’s notable that we do not pump the water out of the formation, but it comes by gravity and goes underground, across a state highway to our [bottling] plant, a distance of about a half a mile,” Callaway said.
The family consistently hears from customers who say they appreciate the “clear, crisp taste” that has built brand loyalty and pushed growth. Callaway Blue offers a water with a low mineral count of 31 parts per million.
“The business has grown in a phenomenal way, particularly the last few years through our base of southeastern regional grocery chains and a number of independent retailers,” Ken Callaway said.
“The product grows year to year on same store sales at nearly 50 percent…of course, that doesn’t apply to all customers, but our major customers where we’ve got hundreds and hundreds of stores,” he said. “It continues to grow – the half-liter Callaway blue 24 pack – at a phenomenal rate. And it’s 50 percent compounded year to year.”
Ken Callaway said they’ve been able to establish a trust with their wholesalers based on the quality of their products and reliability of shipments.
“Our big customer, the biggest grocery chain in the Southeast…they rate their vendors, and we consistently rate in the top 10.” He added that this is based on time, shipments, billing accuracy and a variety of other metrics.
Ken Callaway said the company has been fortunate not to have had any major disruptions relative to its supply chain.
“We certainly had some challenges, related to pandemic, more related to peaks and valleys or spikes in demand,” he said.
“We are a small company, we don’t have a lot of SKUs. We stay focused on trying to get the product shipped, on time and ready for the shelf. There’s a little bit of something to making sure your case doesn’t end up too loose or have too big a bull’s eye on the end of it, so that a bottle or two squirrels out. We do a pretty good job.”
Callaway said the goal for 2022 is to grow the brands “responsibly” as the company is growing 50 percent year over year, for the past three years.
“We were growing before that. But that’s an exceptional rate of growth that we’re focused on – making sure we’ve got the production capacity…I rest uneasy when we’re not giving customers what they want.”
For more information, visit callawayblue.com.