Mom Water journey two steps forward, one step back

Bryce and Jill Morrison began their journey to bring a brand new fruit-infused, non-carbonated alcoholic drink to a market saturated with seltzers over a year ago.

The three hours it took to travel 20 miles during the recent winter weather was just another two-steps-forward-one-step-back day in Jill and Bryce Morrison’s journey to bring their dream alive.

They were on their way up to Toledo to see the first production run of Mom Water — the non-sparkling, fruit and vodka infused water they had created — hopefully, get loaded onto trucks and head out to Indiana liquor stores, bars, and restaurants.

The slog of two steps forward and one step back is generally how Bryce describes the entire process of bringing Mom Water to life. The Ferdinand couple won’t commit to any celebrations until they see the slim cans on area shelves. But they think they have a winner in a market overran with fruity seltzers.

The creation of Mom Water began while the couple was on an all-inclusive Dominican beach vacation. Jill was looking for something fun to drink while avoiding all the sugar-filled mixed drinks that were available. She’d been sipping on some passion fruit infused water and decided to ask the bartender to add some vodka and that became her drink of choice for the remainder of the stay.

Then in 2019, the couple added a pool to their home and began hosting pool parties with friends and family. At the time hard seltzers were starting to take off. “But, you know, on a hot day, when you are in the sun all day, they kind of make you feel bad after a while,” Bryce explained.

They looked around for something non-carbonated but came up empty so Jill reverted back to making her special vodka-infused fruit waters. As outlined on the company’s website about page, the cooler and fridge started filling up with special bottles labeled “mom” to keep the kids from grabbing the wrong drinks.

Seeing the popularity, Jill kinda joked they could start a company. In January of 2020, they made the decision to go for it. Bryce, who has a degree in business management, has always wanted to eventually run his own company, but the alcoholic beverage market is a pretty big monster to attempt to conquer right out of the box.

To maintain as few ingredients as possible and not have it carbonated, Mom Water requires a few extra processes like nitrogen dosing the cans prior to canning. Mom Water has four ingredients, water, fruit juice, vodka, and citric acid. Each can only has 90 calories and zero grams of sugar and zero carbs.

The lessons started quickly for the Morrisons.

Jill’s free time is limited with her position as the manager of the occupational therapy department at Scenic Hills. Bryce’s job in marketing and relationship building for Heart to Heart Hospice is a bit more flexible so he has taken on a lot of the grunt work to get the business off the ground.

“I have no experience in running a business and I have no experience in the alcohol world,” Bryce said. “So you put those two together and add Covid and it’s been, yeah, it’s been a slog.”

Working evenings and weekends and making contacts whenever possible, Bryce traversed reaching out to industry contacts and learning about the steps necessary to get Mom Water on shelves. He was able to luck into a company in Louisville that took them on to create the flavors Jill had mixed for the pool parties.

When they received the unmarked cans of those first few flavors to taste test, the Morrisons had a surreal moment. They put them in the fridge and let them chill for a couple of hours before popping one open. “Up until that point, it was just an idea. We had no idea what it would taste like. In our heads, it was going to end up very close. But we had no idea and no one else did either because it hadn’t been done,” Bryce explained. “So, the first time we drank it we looked at each other and said, ‘Holy crap, it worked.'”

Then, they had to decide what flavors they would feature.

“We started with eight (flavors). We gathered some friends and family,” Jill said adding they wanted a wide range of people with different palates to try the drinks. “And we kind of had tasting parties.”

They narrowed the flavors down to four — all of them from Jill’s original mixes except for the coconut mango. “I don’t like coconut,” she explained adding that it tested well though.

Along with the fun of creating the drinks, Bryce worked with a marketing agency to create the company’s branding. As a marketer, this process was in Bryce’s wheelhouse.

Karen and Becky sporting the final can design.

Each flavor carries a mom name and a bit of personality as a fun throwback to some very mommish monikers. Becky, a mellow coconut mango flavor, enjoys being on the back porch at parties and watching “This is Us”. Karen, whose favorite food is pizza rolls and favorite wine is tequila, is more bold and unique with lemon blueberry flavors. Linda, blueberry peach, is playful and loves being in the middle of her friends at parties. Julie is a witty passion fruit-infused drink who appreciates homemade pizza with cauliflower crust and watching “Friends”.

Jill has loved seeing this part of the process come to fruition as well. “I have loved watching the marketing side and seeing where the product could go in the future,” she said. “The ideas that they have had … things that I never even thought of back when I said ‘why don’t we make this’ as a joke. And now to see where we could possibly go with it is just incredible.”

This was fun but the other side of the business was proving to be difficult. “There really isn’t a roadmap or any kind of resource out there that says here’s how you do it,” Bryce added.

Attempting to find a distillery in the midst of Covid-19 as many were converting to making hand sanitizer was tough. Add finding one that accommodates the skinny cans they wanted for their product, as well as a special tunnel pasteurization process that was needed so Mom Water wouldn’t need any extra preservatives to be shelf-stable, didn’t make it any easier.

Then working with state laws to actually get the drink on shelves. Indiana will see the drink before Kentucky because of different laws regarding alcohol distribution and licensing.

But, more than a year after deciding to go for it, Bryce and Jill saw the pallets of Mom Water finally going on trucks late last week at Maumee Bay Brewing Company. They have hopes that this week or next, Southern Indiana residents will finally be able to lift a cold can of Karen, Linda, Becky, or Julie created by the new Ferdinand company.

Mom Water will be carried at Bob’s Liquors, Holiday Liquors, and 57 Liquors in Petersburg as well as be available at Brew, Pub ‘N’ Grub, and The Schnitz.

“I’m looking forward to finally getting it on the shelves,” Jill said. “I’m excited for people to have something a little bit different that, hopefully, they’ll enjoy drinking.”