The rapid growth of San Diego’s Suja Juice Inc. is testament to the trendiness of juicing — tapping raw vegetables and fruits for belly-flushing cleanses.
Refrigerators in Whole Foods and hundreds of other natural foods supermarkets across the country now showcase the spectrum of Suja’s raw juices — in shades of Vanilla Cloud, Lemon Love and Green Supreme.
The private company, founded just last year, is on track for 2013 sales of $17 million. When the product was first launched at Whole Foods Market Inc. in September, sales for the month were $50,000. This April, the company brought in $1.5 million, according to co-founder and chief marketing officer James Brennan.
Priced at $8.99 for a 16-ounce bottle or up to $163 for multiday cleanses, the juice isn’t cheap. But Suja’s product is raw, organic, cold-pressed and from nongenetically modified organisms — health-centric buzzwords that are helping fuel revenue.
Cold and Hot
“This space we’re in — the natural cold-pressed organic juices — it’s the hottest beverage market on the planet right now,” Brennan said. “There’s huge buzz. You can’t pick up a People magazine or Us Weekly without seeing a celebrity doing a cleanse.”
Indeed, the U.S. fresh juice industry is valued at between $3.4 billion to $5 billion according to various analyst reports, increasing at about 4 percent to 8 percent per year. The overwhelming consensus is that the high-end raw juice segment is its fastest growing segment.
The big beverage players are paying attention — Starbucks Corp., for instance, recently purchased San Bernardino-based juice company Evolution Fresh Inc. for $30 million. Starbucks plans to include its offerings in about 8,000 coffee shops around the country by the end of the year.
Suja largely operates on funds from private investors, who have funneled about $5 million into the company. In less than a year the employee count has grown from seven to about 45, and the company now operates two 30,000-square-foot production sites — one in Philadelphia, and the other in San Diego. Suja produces about 70,000 bottles of juice per week, Brennan said.
Much of the marketing savvy behind the brand comes from Brennan, a well-known San Diego entrepreneur. Brennan co-manages the Enlightened Hospitality Group, running the popular “fabric of social dining” restaurants like Searsucker, Herringbone, Burlap and Gabardine.
“A lot of startups aren’t blessed with this kind of support,” Brennan said. “Because so many of us have worked in hospitality and branding, we’ve really been able to get a jump-start in the industry.”