by Katie Cahill
Walking into the Esotec Ltd. warehouse on Route
212 in Saugerties is like entering beverage heaven. Boxes upon boxes of
fancifully flavored sodas and sparkling waters are stacked high to the
ceiling, waiting to be consumed thirsty customers. It's a Willy Wonka-esque
situation waiting to be taken advantage of - and you've got the golden
If you've been an Ulster County resident for any reasonable amount of time,
surely you've heard Esotec's get-it-stuck-in-your-head slogan: "Your thirst
comes first: Resistance is futile" on the radio at least once, or you've
watched the bright red delivery van unload in front of your favorite local
eatery. That might be what you remember as you chug down a lightly flavored
Glaceau Smart Water, but what owner Tom Bover really wants people to be
aware of is the meaning of Esotec. The company name, Esotec, stems from the
word "esoteric," which, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary, means:
"designed for or understood by the specially initiated alone" and "of
special, rare or unusual interest," which is exactly how Bover felt about
"The name seems kind of nondescript, but really it means 'special,'
'exotic,'" Bover explained.
Bover established Esotec in 1984, but not as a
beverage distributor; originally Esotec sold "high-
Ltd. owner Tom Bover (right) and his son Jason ready a load of SmartWater
for delivery.[ Beth Blis ]
|end audio equipment." However, Bover soon
realized there existed a limited market for such enterprises in Saugerties
and, ever optimistic that the right niche would come along, he began a
currier business, transporting various wares and goods between upstate New
York and Manhattan. On one of his trips, he encountered John Hannigan, a
Vermont resident who owned a beverage company specializing in juices and
sparkling waters called After the Fall. Hannigan began to employ Bover's
currier services and as time progressed, Bover began to take a serious
interest in the health food world.
While in New York City's Chinatown, Bover discovered ginseng in a small
shop. He purchased some and then approached Sunflower Natural Foods in
Woodstock to see if the store was interested in selling the dried root
product. The response was, as Bover recalled: "We'll take it all, and bring
us more next week."
But ginseng didn't remain Bover's focus for very long. When Hannigan died
suddenly at the age of 40, Bover approached the family about selling the
products and using the name. In trade for these rights, Bover agreed to
donate a percentage per case sold to the trust fund of Hannigan's daughter.
Bover stopped the currier business and started selling After the Fall
full-time. But soon, the business began to see some changes.
"Originally it was just After the Fall, and I had a very strong loyalty to
them," Bover explained. However, when the company was purchased by the
Smuckers Corporation, Bover decided to expand his wares to include other
Smuckers products, including his largest competitor, Knudsen, a juice and
"Overnight that doubled my sales," Bover said. Some other products he
decided to introduce when the company was in transition included Santa Cruz
Organics, Natural Brews sodas, China Cola, San Pelligreno, Boylean sodas,
Honest Tea and Glaceau Smart Water, all of which Bover still sells today.
Always in pursuit of the newest trend in the beverage world, Bover regularly
attends trade shows so that he can be at the "cutting edge." Right now, he
is looking at adding Izze brand sparkling juices to his ever-expanding
product list, as it's necessary in this business to keep an open mind.
"Twenty years ago it didn't make a lot of sense, the whole bottled water
thing," Bover said. "Now it amazes me how much water I sell."
His palate is particularly fond of Calypso Tea Lemonade and Journey
Caribbean Cream Soda, but, he said, "I have a strong, good feeling about all
the companies I sell."
Although Bover had been told at that the beverage world was a
"recession-less business" he has seen his fair share of economic ups and
downs. Weather in particular seems to affect sales the most: a hot, dry
summer means a hike in distribution, but wet, rainy months cause a dip.
"Right now there seems to be a lull," Bover said, as this summer hasn't had
the consistently warm weather that drives people to consume his products in
No worries on this front, though. The former Saugerties - now Kingston -
resident is confident that business will pick up again soon and continue on
a steady incline.
"As people become more and more conscious of sugar, these beverages are
becoming more and more popular," he said. He also noted that schools in
California have stopped allowing beverage companies such as Coca-Cola and
Pepsi to sell soda products in the schools and are in turn looking for new
beverage options to offer students. Bover has heard this may happen in New
York state as well, a situation he would gladly welcome.
Esotec is taking on another new experience: selling diet sodas, a product
Bover was formerly opposed to. "I had stayed away from them because of
artificial sweeteners," Bover explained, adding that these products did not
appeal to health food stores, his main business. However, now the demand has
increased so much, Bover feels it would be unwise to continue to keep them
off his product list.
"It's a big trend with people looking for something exciting, something new,
but something low calorie and low carb," he said. "Our stuff really is
specialty that most mainstream companies don't offer."
Another bonus Esotec offers is an intimate repertoire that larger
corporations can't maintain.
"Because it's a small business, I've built really strong relationships with
the people I do business with," he said. "That one-on-one relationship is
something Snapple or Coca-Cola can't offer."
These services are spread by Esotec from Albany to Cornwall and as far to
the east as the New York-Connecticut border, distributing to businesses
ranging from small sidewalk cafés to larger restaurants and grocery stores.
In addition to its single-van fleet, two full time and three part time
employees, Esotec has four sub-distributors that purchase and resell in
Massachusetts, Westchester and White Plains.
Bover is particularly excited about one of his employees in particular, his
"Jason started working for me about a year ago," Bover said. "I think it's
special that he works for me. I'd like to see him take over more
The next phase for Esotec is getting a few additional distribution trucks on
the road, hiring a new salesperson and moving into a warehouse "customized
to our needs."
"I take a lot of pride in my business, I have a lot of fun," Bover
concluded. "I'm a people person, I like what I do. We feel we really have
the best beverages on the planet. Our beverages are so good, don't settle
for anything but the best."
Esotec Ltd. is located on Route 212 in Saugerties. For information call
246-0965 or visit on the web at www.esotecltd.com.
From the Saugerties Times