Juice seems like an industry where there is nothing left to innovate. Almost every food can be juiced and it seems that there is a market for even the most bizarre mixtures. So if juice production has gone just about as far as it can, what did four Californians do in 2012 to completely revolutionize the way so many people think of fruit and vegetable juices? Two words: Cold-pressed.
Since 1864, the only way that most of the world would consume beverages was if they were pasteurized. Pasteurization has done great things for science and saved countless lives, however, while it kills bacteria, it also does away with the good vitamins and minerals, and completely changes the flavor of our food. People like two of Suja’s co-founders, Annie Lawless and Eric Ethans, were frustrated by the lack of pure, organic products on grocery store shelves. So Lawless and Ethans started their own local, juicing business. They loved the idea of producing non-GMO fruit and vegetable juices on a larger scale but they didn’t want to compromise the flavor or nutrients of the drinks. The only way for them to do that would be to process the juices using a cold press, or high pressure processing.
High pressure processing, or HPP, is a cold pasteurization technique which consists of subjecting food, previously sealed in flexible and water-resistant packaging, to a high level of pressure transmitted by water. HPP not only kills bacteria, but also keeps the flavor and nutrients of the beverage intact. They were familiar with cold-pressing or high pressure processing, but did not yet have the funds or means to produce it on a large enough scale to make any money.
This is where Suja’s other two co-founders, James Brennan and Jeff Church, come in. When Brennan met Ethans he was instantly hooked on the juices. Inspired and searching for support he asked one of his previous partners, Jeff Church, to join the mission. Initially, Church was reluctant. “As a self-declared meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, I agreed to meet Ethans as a mentor but told him I probably wouldn’t like the juice. I tried it and it just stopped me in my tracks.”
Now with the more than willing help of serial entrepreneurs, Brennan and Church, everything seemed to come together for Lawless and Ethans. Since its inception in 2012, Suja Juice has become a national sensation, serving products in stores like Whole Foods and Target all over the country. In 2015, they made Forbes’ #2 spot in America’s Most Promising Companies and made an estimated $42 million in 2014, expecting it to have doubled in 2015. In an interview with Forbes in early 2014, the quarter stated that they owe much of their success to one of the only things the group has in common: their shared passion and belief in the juice they seek to sell.
There is so much to learn from entrepreneurs like these four. Not many people thought that it would be possible to produce non-pasteurized juices on this level, but here I am on the East Coast sipping on my own carrot juice produced by Suja in San Diego, California. Their passion for real organic, non-GMO food led them to completely revolutionize the juicing industry. They took a small, local business and brought it to the global level in just four years. Suja and its founders are being recognized by magazines such as Entrepreneurs and Forbes as hugely successful. What started off as two yoga instructors selling green smoothies to their friends turned into a multi-million dollar company. If that’s not entrepreneurship, I don’t know what it.