She is the namesake of pioneering super premium juice brand Fresh Samantha, and while Samantha Levin was just two years old when her father launched the beverage line, she’s following in the footsteps of her family’s business — for the second time — with a high pressure processed (HPP) smoothie/meal replacement brand called “Sam Lives.”
Levin, now 24, splashed on to the scene in 2013 with the launch of “Love, Sam,” a nutrition- and cleanse-focused line of blended and HPP juices that came with a price point of $5 for a 16 oz. bottle, which — at the time — was a bargain for the nascent category. The brand debuted at the Natural Products Expo East show that year and attracted swarms of attendees drawn in by nostalgia for Fresh Samantha and the relatively inexpensive retail cost for an HPP juice product.
However, Love, Sam never made it to market. The brand was to be co-packed and high pressure processed at FreshBev LLC in New Haven, Conn., and be distributed by Greenshoots, the now defunct natural and specialty DSD wholesaler. Alluding to problems that eventually led to Greenshoots’ eventual demise, Levin told BevNET that Love, Sam was “planning on launching and everything was looking good, and there was a lot of stuff happening, I think, with Greenshoots.”
“It wasn’t the right time to launch [the] product,” Levin said. “I also wasn’t fully pleased yet with the product, and I really didn’t want to just do another juice cleanse. And so I started playing around in my own kitchen… with the idea of a meal.”
In the months that followed, Levin eventually landed on a formulation and positioning that she felt differentiated Love, Sam from dozens of juice-based, HPP brands that have since entered the market. Focusing on meal replacement as the driver for consumption, Levin tweaked her blends and packed them with whole hemp seeds — known for their high protein and fiber content — to create something of a “chewable smoothie,” she said.
Along with the revised formulation is an aptly titled new name: Sam Lives. The line comes in three playfully named and labeled varieties. Sam Lives’ Jangled Mango, Duke of Kale and Strawberry Basil are each derivative of Love, Sam products in formulation, branding and design, including labels and imagery created by Levin’s mother (who was also the artist behind Fresh Samantha’s look). The blends come with a hand-drawn cartoon character, each corresponding to a specific variety.
Promoted as “a deliciously nutritious meal in a bottle,” the beverages are described as “superfood smoothies” and made with both organic and non-organic fruits and vegetables as well as extra virgin olive oil, added as a good source of fat, Levin said. She hopes to achieve a fully organic blend for all of her products, but said that organic citrus ingredients have proven to be difficult to source. Levin labels her products are being made with non-GMO ingredients (certification is coming, she said) and as “cold pressured,” as opposed to using “high pressure processed” or “HPP,” terms that still believes are confusing and not well-understood by most consumers.
Packaged in 12 oz. bottles, the blends contain 290-300 calories, 7-8 grams of protein and 14-26 grams of sugar per variety, as well as 4-5 grams of fiber each. Levin is particularly satisfied with the sugar count of her products, which she views as more approachable than competing blends. Fiber nutrition is also high on Levin’s list of key product attributes and the reason she blends her ingredients as opposed to cold-pressing them. Cold-pressing only retains the juice from fruits and vegetables, not the pulp, and as a result much of the fiber content is not retained, something she sees as missing from similarly-positioned products.
Sam Lives blends are co-packed in Connecticut at D&M Packing, LLC, which specializes in pressing and bottling olive oil. The products are then high pressure processed at Stay Fresh Foods’ Meridan, Conn. facility. As for distribution, Sam Lives is carried by Bronx-based Gourmet Guru, which trucks the products to handful of Whole Foods stores in Maine and Massachusetts. Levin said that she will focus primarily on the New England market for the time being.
Levin said that she’s not currently looking for outside funding to support the development of Sam Lives, instead relying on her family — which in 2000 sold Fresh Samantha to Odwalla for $29 million — for financial resources. And while Levin counts her parents as advisors and is sentimental for her roots as the inspiration for Fresh Samantha, she is, by her own admission (and trademark) “all grown up and fresher than ever.”