Bullseye: Life Juice Stays the Course, Lands National Deal with Target

Ask most entrepreneurs in the burgeoning world of cold-pressed, high-pressure processed (HPP) juice, and they’ll tell you that natural and specialty grocers are the most sought after for retail placement of their ultra-premium products. At prices that typically range from $7-13 per bottle, the juices would appear to be best suited for distribution in these non-mainstream retailers, in which consumers are willing to pay a premium for high-end, high-quality goods.

Yet while some view limitations in how and where bottled, cold-pressed juice can be sold, Ety Salamone, the CEO and founder of Life Juice, sees opportunity.

A former Pilates instructor who cut her teeth in the juice business by selling fresh pressed blends in the back of her studio, Salamone launched Life Juice in 2011 and soon began an online business that sold packaged, home-delivered juice cleanses. By 2013, she was ready to begin wholesaling her products and mapped out a strategy that included a broad range of retailers. Focusing on the Tri-State area, Salamone gained distribution in ShopRite, a traditional grocer based in the Northeast, landed placement in specialty and gourmet chains Kings and Balducci’s and partnered with Williams Sonoma, which sells Life Juice cleanse packs on its website.

Earlier this month, Salamone landed her biggest and most noteworthy retailer to date: Target. The brand is now distributed within the retailer’s 390+ PFresh concept stores, where Target sells refrigerated products and fresh produce. It’s a placement that, if successful, may have a significant impact on how Target and other mass retailers view the nascent category and its potential in that channel.

Salamone said that the deal with Target, which was initiated by a Life Juice broker (one Salamone decline to name), had been in the making for approximately three months. The retailer was impressed with the taste profile of Life Juice products, as well as the sophisticated positioning of the brand, and packaging that “speaks well to the Target consumer,” Salamone said.

It remains to be seen how Target customers react to the $7.99 price tag for Life Juice blends, however, Salamone said that the price point is where she believes “the customer wants to be,” particularly as consumers adopt a variety of use occasions for cold-pressed juices, including meal replacement, exercise recovery or simply a healthy treat.

“The mainstream wants to be healthy,” she noted. “That’s the bottom line.”

Ety Salamone, Life Juice (Photo credit: Williams Sonoma)

With only five employees working at the company, including Salamone, a self-described “stay-at-home mom” with two children, sales support at Target will initially come from shelf talkers and other print-based communication. Salamone said that there were no current plans for in-store demos or sampling, however, that could change with the infusion of new capital in Life Juice.

The company is the beginning stages of a new round of funding and currently interviewing investors, Salamone said, and while she declined to offer details on the amount that the Life Juice is attempting to raise, Salamone noted that the capital would be used for “building infrastructure.” Asked if that meant the construction of a new production facility — Life Juice currently works with a Midwestern-based co-packer — she expressed satisfaction in the company’s manufacturing operations and management.

With the Target deal in place, Salamone will continue to fill out distribution with at least two more retail accounts that she said would be announced within the next two months. Yet while getting product onto store shelves is a critical step, perhaps more important is the ability for consumers to understand the health benefits of her products, and the notion of a “raw” beverage, she said. Salamone said that there is “so much confusion about the category,” much of it rooted in the terminology, including “cold-pressed” and high pressure processed,” of which most consumers are unfamiliar.

And while she expressly calls out HPP on Life Juice labels, she noted that “nobody knows about it” and that “it’s a hard science to understand.” Salamone said that marketers of cold-pressed juice need to have an “honest conversation” with consumers, and expressed confidence that, in time, and with a greater emphasis on point-of-sale demos, the category as a whole will benefit.

“As long as consumers are educated about the process, it shouldn’t be a problem,” Salamone said.