Drinkwater family drinking from the fountain of success
By Deb Silverthorn
With the launch of Jared Drinkwater’s Low and Slow hickory smoked barbecue potato, corn and tortilla chips, shoppers at more than 400 stores across Texas are being “chipnapped.” Today, Texas. Tomorrow, across America and who knows where else?
“Low and Slow, the first authentically smoked snack, took almost four years to bring to life. Opening [one of our] bags smells like walking into your favorite barbecue joint or opening the door to your smoker — an experience different from any other chip. I love BBQ and I couldn’t be more excited about taking a crazy idea and bringing it to retail,” Drinkwater said. “Loading the shelves and then seeing people pick [the products] up for purchase has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.
“We’ve smoked every salty snack item on the planet and they’re all delicious,” added Drinkwater, “so we have a lot of room for future innovation.”
A Boston native, Drinkwater is the son of Richard Drinkwater, of blessed memory, and Jane and Steve Fireman and brother of Cassandra (Craig Sherman), Trevor (Kristi) and Tyler (Eliza) Drinkwater. After graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in sports management, Drinkwater worked at a sports marketing company before earning an MBA at Northwestern University. In 2003, he moved to North Texas to participate in an internship at Frito-Lay — a move that could have been prescient.
Drinkwater says he learned a lot and enjoyed his work during his 18 years in retail and corporate marketing. But when the idea for a new snack idea took hold, he had to give it a try.
A barbecue enthusiast, Drinkwater often wondered why barbecue chips were all based on or seasoned with BBQ sauce or seasoning rather than made with the process and art of smoking authentic Texas barbecue. “So I threw a bunch of corn chips in our home smoker with some rub and the family loved it,” he said.
In 2019, Drinkwater took a bag of his chip creations to longtime friend and now partner, Mike Zbuchalski, who worked at Frito-Lay for 22 years, ultimately leading the company’s research and development.
“When he opened the bag, he caught the smell — the aroma — and gave it all a thumbs-up,” said Drinkwater.
The duo took years to refine the smoking process in a way that could smoke millions of pounds of chips each year.
In November 2021, Drinkwater raised the capital to build a small plant, the following May he left his full-time job and six months later the Drinkwater family had a booth at the Texas Monthly BBQ World Fair in Lockhart, Texas.
“We sold about a bag a minute for seven hours. It was surreal,” said Drinkwater. “We were validated by the barbecue community and six months later, we’re on store shelves.”
Julie has recently joined her husband at Low and Slow. A Dallas native, she is the daughter of Linda and Dr. Leonard Behr and sister of David (Heather) Behr and Tracy (Moshe) Itzhakov. Julie is a graduate of Levine Academy and J.J. Pearce High School, with a bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Austin and a master’s from UT Southwestern. She and her husband are the parents of Brendan Bernstein, Callie, Jory and Zac Drinkwater.
The Drinkwaters are community-driven and active through the Aaron Family JCC, Akiba Yavneh Academy — with one alumnus and three other children now enrolled — Camp Bauercrest and Camp Sabra, Chabad of Dallas, Dallas Area Torah Association, the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project/Momentum.
Leading up to the product’s public launch, Drinkwater shared bags of chips with the volunteer crew of Akiba Yavneh Academy’s Points-For-Peace tournament and with Austin Holley, tennis director at the Ron Zahler Tennis Center at the Aaron Family JCC.
“I absolutely hope we can carry them as an option here at the J. The chips really are delicious and they are as terrific as the family behind them,” said Holley. “I’ve known Julie since she was in high school. The family she comes from and the one she and Jared are building are great.”
Being certified kosher as OU-D (made on dairy equipment) broadens the audience who can enjoy the snacks; for Drinkwater, there was no other option. Leah Dubrawsky, director of Friendship Circle and wife of Rabbi Levi Dubrawsky, comments, “Delicious is an understatement. They are amazing.”
The product line hit with an initial rollout to Albertsons, HEB, Market Street, Randall’s, Tom Thumb, United stores and at lowandslow.com at the end of June with market expansions in the works. Loading end caps and store shelves was a family affair and one that Drinkwater will remember for a long time to come.
“Teaching our kids to dream and believe in themselves is one of the best lessons we can give them as parents,” said Drinkwater. “It’s a blessing to have them around from the very beginning, to see how hard work can pay off and to know that opportunities are endless.
“Now,” says the chip master who plans to update the brand’s journey @lowandslowsnacks, “people just need to buy them.”