In a partnership built on the bonds (or, in this case, the bogs) of expertise, cranberry giant Ocean Spray has aligned with FreshBev, the maker of RIPE Craft Bar Juice and Project Fresh cold-pressed juices, on the development of a new line of ultra-premium juice blends.
The soon-to-be-launched RIPE Craft Juice, a line of cold-pressed, high pressure processed (HPP) juices, enables Ocean Spray, a grower-owned cooperative of cranberry and grapefruit farmers, a chance to wade into the refrigerated juice segment, a category that despite its vast portfolio of beverages, the company has yet to penetrate.
For FreshBev, the new line is intended to reach a new set of mainstream consumers and educate about how the melding of high quality ingredients and emerging technologies can create a drinking experience that is unparalleled in taste and nutrition.
“What we want to do here is be able to craft an approachable scale-driver brand that leverages cold-pressed technology, 100 percent traceability and responsibility, but is something that mainstream America is going to be able to afford [and] experience cold-pressed, HPP juice,” said FreshBev co-founder Michel Boissy, who added that “an educated customer is the ‘get one for life.’”
The RIPE Craft Juice brand is “100 percent owned” by FreshBev, Boissy said, and in addition to a licensing and long-term supplier contract with Ocean Spray, the deal also includes a non-compete agreement in which the cranberry company will be prohibited from creating a similar line of juices. Boissy could not offer specifics on the length of non-complete clause, but stated that it will hold “for a while.”
While not co-branded with Ocean Spray, the juices do include its well-known “wave” logo on the labels, surrounded by the text, “Certified with farmer owned Cooperative Grown Fruit.”
“We really want to explain to the consumer that if you want to get the best products possible, you’ve got to go to the top growers,” Boissy said. “[Ocean Spray] has been doing this one thing, and that’s it, forever. And that’s what we’re carrying into our business model: being a ‘deep and narrow’ company, being a specialized company.”
The juice blends are made with cranberries and grapefruits sourced from Ocean Spray farmers as well as apples from producers in upstate New York, all of which is cold-pressed with the resulting juice bottled and high pressure processed. Although the juices are not organic, often a key selling point for cold-pressed brands, Boissy pointed to the traceability of the fruit and how it is processed as “a reasonable trade-off” for consumers.
Packaged in a custom 12 oz. PET bottle with a shape similar to the one that the company uses for Project Fresh, along with a 1L package, the juices will initially come in four varieties: Cranberry, Cranberry Apple, Whole Cranberry Apple and Red Grapefruit, which will be a seasonal offering. Competitively priced among other single-serve cold-pressed juices, RIPE Craft Juice will sell for $3.99 for the 12 oz. size and $9.99 for the 1L bottle.
RIPE Craft Juice is set to make its debut in early November with a soft launch in the Northeast and North Atlantic regions of Whole Foods. The products will gradually roll out to other Whole Foods regions and will be sold exclusively at the natural chain for 12 months, before making their way to other natural and specialty retailers.
Despite limited distribution for the launch, Boissy said that RIPE Craft Juice is designed to be a scale driver for the company, which has found a thriving niche on- and off-premise with its RIPE-branded cold-pressed, HPP cocktail mixers.
And while Project Fresh, a line of organic, cold-pressed juices that are blended with “micro-milled” whole fruits and vegetables, have broadened FreshBev’s portfolio, it’s positioned as a regional brand that operates within the natural channel. Boissy said that by comparison, RIPE Craft Juice is designed to reach consumers on a national scale.
An efficient trial and education program will be critical to the success of a broad distribution strategy, and FreshBev has enlisted Presence Marketing to help introduce RIPE Bar RIPE Craft juices to consumers across the U.S. Although Presence already works closely with Suja, one of the largest cold-pressed juice companies in the country, Boissy said that the deal works because FreshBev is not looking to compete with the brand nor any others that comprise the swelling ranks in an already saturated market for super-premium juice. Rather, he sees RIPE as offering a highly specific line of products, albeit ones with broad appeal.
“The reason why our brands, in my eyes, are not cannibalistic to Suja is the same reason why we designed them,” he said. “We’re going to specialize in making the best cold-pressed cranberry juice on the market. Second off, we are the first cold-pressed bar mixer on the market. [Suja] might want to do something like that down the road, but we’re pretty far ahead of the ball game.”
Indeed, the ultra-fresh flavor profile of RIPE Bar Juice has propelled the growth of a devoted following among retailers and consumers, with word-of-mouth marketing driving new sales and distribution of the brand. Packaged in a square-edged 1L bottle, the vegetable and fruit juice blends come in a number of popular cocktail varieties, including margarita and Bloody Mary, and are carried throughout the Legal Seafood restaurant chain, among others. The mixers are also available at Whole Foods and several specialty retailers in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, with additional placement coming to the East Coast.
Though FreshBev initially leaned on a self-distribution model, the company recently partnered with Berkshire Brewing Co., which ships RIPE Bar Juice on refrigerated trucks in southern New England. In the New York market, the company works with Gourmet Guru for off-premise sales of the brand and Dairyland, which distributes the beverages to on-premise retailers.
Amid a national push for RIPE Bar Juice and the roll out of RIPE Craft Juice, Boissy said that FreshBev, whose facility in New Haven, Conn. includes cold-pressing equipment and an HPP machine, will have adequate capacity to support a surge in production. However, he noted that the company, which also co-packs and handles HPP for Tumeric Alive, a brand of cold-pressed turmeric-infused juice blends, will likely require new capital investment, a spend he expects to take place in spring 2015.