Andrew Januik was born into a wine family. His father, Mike Januik, was head winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle through the ‘90s, and Andrew grew up going into work with dad and, over time, became just as passionate about wine as his father.
Together, the father and son — along with other family members — own and operate Januik Wines and partner with Tom Alberg and Judi Beck to run Novelty Hill Wines in Woodinville, Wash. Andrew Januik makes wines for Novelty Hill, under his own eponymous label, and a series of South American wines called Southern Sojourn. Steeped in the wine industry with multiple projects, it was something of a surprise, then, that he recently turned his attention to making hard seltzer along with a childhood friend of his — who prefers to remain anonymous — and entered into a trendy and growing market with 4Good Hard Seltzer, all while remaining first and foremost a winemaker.
VinePair sat down with Januik to chat about his move from wine to hard seltzer; 4Good’s mission to reduce food waste by using “ugly” produce that grocers won’t sell; and tackling food insecurity issues through a partnership with No Kid Hungry.
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1. Hard seltzer is a clear trend in the beverage world. Are you looking at it from that perspective with 4Good?
No, we think it will continue to evolve and be refined to meet customer taste, but we think as a category, it’s certainly here to stay. After all these years working in the wine industry, I’ve learned that there are all sorts of trends, fads, and changes in consumer behavior. What I have also learned is that if you make a consistently great product, listen to your customers, and continue evolving, then you need not worry too much about trends or fads. I believe this to be true just as much for hard seltzer as wine.
2. What sets 4Good apart from other seltzers on the market?
We’re not just making seltzer to make seltzer. We’re hoping to bring awareness and action to some significant issues: food waste and food insecurity. When you think about it, it doesn’t seem right that 30 percent of the food we produce ends up in a landfill while millions of people — children especially — in our country suffer from food insecurity. We’re hoping that consumers agree.
3. Tell us more about your partnership with No Kid Hungry.
No Kid Hungry (NKH) helps facilitate the delivery of good, healthy meals to children all across the U.S. Through donations and fundraising, they are able to source healthy food sources for kids who need it — and we’re giving the general public a way to make their casual alcohol purchases go to a good cause. For every case we sell, we’re making a financial donation to NKH, which helps them do their amazing work.
4. How did you develop 4Good’s flavors?
We get our fruit from a company that sources ugly fruit from different farms, much of it from here in Washington. We make the alcohol base first, and then we actually add the fruit afterwards. It’s not the fruit that’s being fermented, and that adds to the flavor. So, the seltzer and the alcohol base are made first, and then the fruit is added. It doesn’t have a fake taste; it tastes like real fruit. Although we’ve recently launched our product, I can’t tell how many times I’ve heard, “That’s easily the best seltzer I’ve ever had” or, “Oh wow, that’s delicious — and I don’t even like hard seltzer.” And these statements are from lifelong industry folk and non-industry drinkers. In the end, this is what we think will make us different and if we can do some good along the way, all the better!
5. Do you have plans to expand distribution beyond Washington?
Up to this point, we have focused just on Washington while we learn more about our customers and our own brand. But we have had an immense amount of interest around the country from both consumers and distributors. For the immediate future, though, we are going to stay somewhat localized. Starting later this month, our product will also be represented by Handcrafted Wines down in Oregon. It has been amazing to see how much interest we’ve received from both wine drinkers and wine distributors because of the uniqueness of the brand and our backgrounds. We feel strongly that it is reaching, and being greatly enjoyed by, many people who have not traditionally drunk hard seltzer. (Online purchases are currently only available in the state of Washington.)
6. Is making hard seltzer as much fun as wine?
So incredibly different! From the production side, it’s amazing the amount of freedom and flexibility you have in developing flavors and working on your own timetable. Not to mention the fact that you have so many different fruit options and nearly endless possible combinations of different fruits, whereas with wine we are always working on the timeline of the grapes and every day is so critical during the harvesting season. But there are few things in life more satisfying than making your way successfully through a full harvest. The best part about both is that I get to work with friends and family to make two very different products that I’m immensely proud of.
7. You’re working with a longtime friend as a partner. How is the experience for you two?
In addition to our unique backgrounds, we have personalities that, while different, also complement each other very well for starting and operating a business. It also doesn’t hurt that we have been incredibly close friends since we were 6 years old, so there aren’t exactly a lot of secrets between us. I think that deep-seated trust is something that is hard to manufacture with a business partner.
8. You divide your time a good deal with the wines you make both here and in South America. How are you organizing time for this venture as well?
The short answer is, lots of coffee! In addition to that, I’m blessed to have an amazing support system in my life that has always been willing to pick up slack in so many different ways. That starts with my family, who have always supported and encouraged my different ventures — as out there as some of them have seemed. In that family, I also include our winemaking team in Woodinville that has been so close for so many years.
We are very lucky to work in such a fun and ever-changing industry, but one thing that most people who work in the alcohol industry have in common is that you will never have totally “normal” hours. Whether it’s the long hours of harvest or the long hours going out selling and getting people excited about a new brand after already working a full day in the cellar, 40-hour weeks aren’t to be expected. But the fun and the excitement of the work makes those extra hours fly by.