Organic Avenue, which made a name for itself selling organic cold-pressed juices and prepared foods to an upscale clientele in New York City but has struggled with sustained financial losses in recent months, has been sold, according to multiple media outlets. Vested Capital Partners, an investment firm that specializes in turnaround projects, bought Organic Avenue from private equity firm Weld North in a cashless transaction that includes a special stock option that will pay Weld only if exercised following a successful restructuring and sale of the company.
The turbulent times for Organic Avenue come amid industry concerns that, despite sustained interest and demand for cold-pressed juice, the market is still relatively small. Combined with the speed at which new juice brands and retail shops emerge some worry that the category is reaching a saturation point.
Weld, in partnership with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., also a private equity firm, acquired a stake in Organic Avenue in 2012. In 2013, Weld took a 70 percent controlling interest in the fast-casual restaurant chain, which was founded in 2000 by entrepreneur Denise Mari. In a January, 2013 press release, Weld praised Organic Avenue as “extraordinarily well positioned to become a national leader in both the rapidly growing $5 billion organic juicing industry and the $75 billion natural foods industry.” Weld eventually increased its stake in Organic Avenue to 95 percent and embarked on plan to expand nationally.
Since that time, however, Organic Avenue has been riddled with losses primarily caused by mounting food waste. In a recent article, Racked, a fashion-focused website that has closely followed the market for cold-pressed juice, reported that the three-day shelf life for Organic Avenue’s juices and foods were at the heart of operational losses that reached $600,000 a month across all locations by May, 2015. In January, Organic Avenue’s losses totaled $1 million, and the company reduced its workforce by one-third.
Racked also indicated that Weld had been looking for buyer for Organic Avenue since last year and that the company was in talks with Organic Avenue rival Juice Press, but a deal could not be made. With Organic Avenue bleeding cash, Weld planned to shutter the business in December before Vested came on board.
Prior to Vested’s arrival, Weld had considered adding a high pressure processing (HPP) machine to Organic Avenue’s processing facility in Long Island, where all of its juices are produced. HPP is increasingly employed by super-premium juice brands as a way to extend shelf life while maintaining a taste similar to that of fresh-pressed juice. Weld ultimately decided that the high cost of an HPP machine — pegged at $3-5 million — was not worth the investment, according to Racked.
HPP, however, may be part of the future for Organic Avenue. Racked reported that Vested Capital is investigating options to outsource the processing of its juices via a facility in California as a way to expand upon national shipping of Organic Avenue juices.