It may be a disappointing end to a once promising beverage brand, but Pitaya Plus founder Chuck Casano said that discontinuing his company’s line of pitaya drinks is for the best. Casano and his team are now focused on the growth and development of its raw, organic frozen smoothie packs while continuing to support its social mission in working with independent pitaya farmers and single mothers in poverty-stricken communities in Nicaragua.
Casano told BevNET that the company made the decision to cease production of the juice line about two months ago and informed its retailers and distributors of the move shortly thereafter. Although Pitaya Plus rapidly gained distribution and retail placement across the country, the company, which has three full-time employees, was unable to adequately support marketing and promotion of the brand. As a result, the juice line suffered from weak velocity, which combined with high manufacturing costs, led to Casano’s decision to discontinue the drinks.
“We are extremely grateful for all of the support from our customers over the past two years, however, the current model is not sustainable,” Casano said in a statement.
Casano also noted that he sees weakening demand for pasteurized super premium juices (Pitaya Plus was a pasteurized product) as consumers – particularly in the natural channel – are shifting toward brands that offer raw and high-pressured processed products. Moreover, competition in the ever-expanding category is “mindboggling,” he said.
While Pitaya Plus drinks faced a steady downward decline in sales, Casano said that the company’s foodservice line of frozen pitaya smoothie packs has rocketed in growth. The products are currently sold to over 100 cafés and juice bars in Southern and Northern California and New York City, and will soon launch in all 83 locations of Juice it Up!, a chain of natural juice bars. Pitaya Plus will introduce a consumer retail version of the packs in Whole Foods stores in Southern California this summer. Casano said by dropping its juice line and focusing on its smoothie products, he expects the company to be cash positive within a couple months.
With Pitaya Plus drinks as the latest brand to fall, the steady flow of companies shutting down beverage lines, and, in some cases, entire business operations has become somewhat of an alarming trend. Although 2013 is barely nine weeks old, the industry has seen the end of a number of brands including Mix1, Bossa Nova, Bean & Body and Brain Twist, the marketer of Slap Energy drinks.