San Diego Business Journal

Key Ingredients

BEVERAGE: Suja Juice Assembles Right Recipe For Success in the Sector By Meghana Keshavan Monday, May 20, 2013

Seeding Success

Tabloids have shown celebrities like Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson guzzling the drink — one of Suja’s marketing tactics has been through celebrity “seeding,” or giving stars free products so they’ll be caught on camera.

“We do some seeding, but every celebrity we’ve had has paid full price for our juice,” Brennan said. “We certainly appreciate them and understand that the more they’re drinking it, the better off it is for us — but it’s our mentality that once they’ve tasted it and liked it, it’s not a freebie forever.”

The company is also making strides in appealing to a younger demographic, Brennan said. Facebook campaigning has brought more than 11,000 new fans in the 18-24 age demographic in the past month.

Brennan said he stumbled upon the concept, when last year his pregnant wife developed a penchant for raw juices made by Eric Ethans, a personal chef — and now Suja’s chief development officer.

The 30-year-old Ethans started the juice line about two years ago with partner Annie Lawless, a lawyer who is now the company’s chief health officer and manages operations, production and retail marketing.

The two experimented with various fruit and vegetable combinations — from collard greens to pineapple to turmeric — all the while researching the nutritional benefits of the ingredients.

They began a home-delivery service for the juices, called Elevated Nutrient. The juice’s popularity skyrocketed, and Ethans found himself home-delivering the concoctions on his skateboard — in the middle of the night.

“One day, he was wheeling up my driveway on his skateboard, and must have hit one of my kid’s toys because the package of juice bottles shattered — there was glass everywhere,” Brennan said. “I looked at Eric and said ‘Man, you’re a complete mess. What’s your plan here? You’re running yourself ragged. If you ever want to do something about this, let me know.’”

Ethans contacted Brennan shortly thereafter, and in June 2012 Suja Juice — named for a Hindu word that means “beautiful, long life” — was born.

Brennan brought in his friend Jeffrey Church to take the company’s helm as CEO. Church, who founded the $25 million private equity firm Autus Capital LLC, is also the founder and CEO of the San Diego-based Nika Water Company LLC. Nika, a socially conscious bottled water company, donates 100 percent of its profits to clean water projects and poverty alleviation around the world.

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