David Byrd is very passionate about his Columbia County home. He should be, considering his family’s history in the area.
His father’s side of the family has been traced back to the 1700s, and his mother’s side has a long history, as well. “We have been here pretty much since the founding of the county,” Byrd says.
A successful businessman—he is the president of Southern Beverage Packers in Appling—Byrd loves giving back to the community. His family is involved with many charities, both locally and on a broader scale.
“We were raised to give back,” Byrd says. “Family comes first, of course, but you have to look out for the community. Without the community, where would we be? The community has given us so much and so many opportunities, it is only right to give back to it.”
“It is especially fulfilling in what we do for the community and those in need. We recently reached out to Lumberton, N.C., to help them (after Hurricane Matthew). Locally, we make donations to several charities. We are proud to always be giving back to the community with our time, money and products.”
No doubt his desire to give back comes at least in part from his mother, Mary Byrd, whose brother was well-known Augusta photographer Robert “Fitz” Simms. Mary S. Byrd should be a familiar name to students and graduates of Augusta University, where there is an art gallery named after her.
“There’s never a dull moment with Mama,” Byrd says. “She is involved all over the place—the garden club, Golden Harvest Food bank, all kinds of missions with the church and much more. We once gave her an old production plant—about 100,000 square feet—that she donated to Golden Harvest.”
Even Southern Beverage Packers on Nature’s Way in Appling—which pumps, bottles and distributes Springtime Water and other products—is based on an artesian well in Columbia County. The artesian well that the water comes from is on land that belongs to the Byrd family, and the production and bottling plant is nearby.
“We always knew that a source of water was there,” Byrd says. “We wanted to know more, so we hired a hydrogeologist from the University of West Georgia. He identified it and mapped it out as far as the depth and the area to access. Then we hired someone who specialized in drilling artesian wells to come drill it for us. Ironically, the way the precise location of the water was found with a divining rod made of an old coat hanger.”
Byrd is actually the second generation of his family in the bottling business. His maternal grandfather worked for Coca-Cola United in Augusta from the 1930s until 1966, and his father worked for Pepsi-Cola Bottling in Augusta until 1966. After leaving Pepsi, his father purchased 7-Up Bottling Corp. on Deans Bridge Road and later became Southern Beverage Packers, which was bottling private-label sodas for grocery stores, such as Big K for Kroger.
In the early ’70s, Southern Beverage was expanding under his father’s leadership, so he found some partners to help. In about a decade, the elder Byrd purchased his partners’ stock to run the company himself.
David Byrd, a graduate of Evans High School, had earned a degree in agriculture economics from the University of Georgia and was working at a local bank when his father took over the whole company and asked him to come onboard. David joined the family business, and more growth soon followed.
Water Is a Booming Business
“In a small bottling company, you are always looking for new products,” Byrd says. “In the late ’80s, we decided to try bottled water. After all, we are blessed with great source right here in Columbia County.”
At that time, bottled water was only done in Europe—and in glass bottles. The Byrds decided to use plastic bottles, a common practice today.
Byrd’s love of his community extends to his customers. He doesn’t see them simply as people who buy a product. It is always his goal to form relationships with them.
“To do that,” Byrd says, “you have to have a lot of integrity as a business person and be true to your word. All businesses have issues to solve; you just have to admit the problem, resolve it and get it behind you. You have to prove you have integrity to earn customers’ trust.”
The second part of building relationships is having a great product. Byrd is confident in Southern Beverage’s line of artesian-well bottled waters: “Our product is second to none.”
Earning the trust of customers and building relationships also involves giving the consumer a good value.
“We like to think we run a tight ship,” Byrd says, “and the savings we gain, we pass on to the consumer. Several stores in the area carry our half-liter artesian water for 59 cents. Where else can you get a half-liter of anything for under a dollar? We aim to give the consumer a great product at a great price.”
Today, Southern Beverage Packers offers a variety of products. The Springtime Artesian Water, Springtime Vitamin Enriched Flavored Water, Springtime Ice, Enhanced Electrolyte Water, Crystalline Sodas and Crystalline Fruit Drinks all use water pumped directly from the artesian well in Appling.
“It seems like in the nonalcoholic beverages world different types of waters are getting customers’ attention,” Byrd says, “and we are working to meet those needs.”
To that end, in mid-October Southern Beverage released a line of alkaline water. “This is water with a high pH; it is considered very healthy, as is an alkaline diet. There are a few alkaline waters on West Coast, and we are launching ours to meet the demand here.”
Southern Beverage Packers does more than just bottle and sell its line of products in the local area. “We bottle water and deliver it to 12 states in the South,” Byrd says. “We also market products that are not bottled here.”
The other products require an expertise that Byrd’s company provides. Southern Beverage comes up with the label designs, has the labels made and sends them to a firm that bottles the water. Southern Beverage then markets and distributes the product.
Many people also are moving away from sugar-added beverages to water. “The World Health Organization just last week issued statement that a majority of cases of obesity and Type II Diabetes in the United States are from added sugars. A lot of people are learning the health benefits of water,” he says.
For Byrd, Southern Beverage Packers is a family affair. His wife, Angie, is in charge of local sales. She also handles outreach to charities and the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce. “Angie just developed our website and maintains all of our social media,” Byrd says. “She stays very busy.”
He sees his employees as family, too. Part of his success, Byrd says, is that he makes a commitment to his employees to provide them with a good job. In fact, the family owned company has several employees who have been there for 30 to 40 years or more.
Byrd takes great pride in living and working in Columbia County.
“We are proud to be located in the CSRA. It is such a dynamic and growing area. Angie and I have lived most of our lives here and are proud to be business partners. It is a great place to live and work.”
Southern Beverage Packers Inc.
President: David Byrd
Where: 6341 Nature’s Way, Appling
Call: (800) 326-2469
Email: [email protected]
Online: www.southernbev.com and www.facebook.com/southernbeveragespringtimewater
This article appears in the October 2016 issue of Augusta Magazine.