Life Juice founder Ety Deutsch is still the face of the cold-pressed, high pressure processed juice brand, but a new investment team and CEO are now at the helm and they’ve pushed the reset button on distribution and retail placement.
Although Deutsch is still intimately involved in marketing and product formulation, business operations are now headed by Peter Schulick, a food and beverage industry consultant who specializes in concept-to-commercialization planning for start-up brands as well as scaling strategies for mid-sized companies. Deutsch met Schulick last year and joined Life Juice in an advisory capacity.
In a recent interview with BevNET, Schulick, who from 2009 to 2014 was the general manager and director of sales for juice company Red Jacket Orchards, said that upon tasting Life Juice products for the first time he was blown away by the quality and taste profile. However, he felt that the company’s distribution strategy, which focused on placement of Life Juice in mainstream retailers, needed refinement. While Deutsch was able to secure shelf space in places like Shop-Rite, Target and 7-Eleven, Schulick worried that Life Juice was missing an opportunity to reach consumers in the natural channel.
“[Deutsch] had herself kind of pigeonholed in an area I didn’t think was going to allow her to be successful,” Schulick said. “Ultimately, I’d love to sell it to everybody, but that’s not the way Whole Foods or Wegmans is going to be really interested when I go in there and pitch them. They’re not going to be happy if I say ‘you can get it in 7-Eleven.’ So I told her, ‘look, we’re going to have to… do a little reset here.’”
Schulick began mapping out a new business strategy for Life Juice, one that — as he describes it — would “send Ety’s baby off to college.” However, Schulick’s vision would require new financial investment in Life Juice. Tapping a network of contacts culled from nearly 25 years in the food, beverage and packaging industries, Schulick pulled together a group of investors who formed a new company called Life Juice Brands. Deutsch remains the owner of Life Juice and is transitioning its intellectual property and licensing to Life Juice Brands, but that process is not yet completed. He noted that that Deutsch not a shareholder in the new company.
Shulick was appointed CEO of Life Juice Brands in September and since focused on ramping up distribution. Although the brand is no longer sold at Target, a new partnership with specialty foods broker Haddon House has taken the brand into retail chains up and down the East Coast, Shulick said. Life Juice has also added shelf space at Costco, having launched the brand in all of the club giant’s Mexico locations, where it’s represented in a 6-pack of its Oh My Greens variety, which retails for approximately $30.
Individual 16 oz. bottles of Life Juice come with an everyday price of $5.99. The company has pared down its product line to four core offerings: Positive Balance and Oh My Greens, each made with spinach as the primary ingredient, Bodacious Bunny, a carrot juice-centric product and Happy Belly, which is made with purple cabbage. Like a number of other high pressure processed (HPP) juice companies, Life Juice no longer markets an almond milk variety. Shulick said that the company had concerns about maintaining the pH levels in almond milk, even with the use of HPP.
For production needs, Life Juice will continue using co-packers and HPP tollers. While the development of its own facility is something the company may consider down the line, Shulick is focused on expanding availability and awareness of Life Juice.
“The engine is revving and we have the resources in place, and we’ve got the crew to take this as far as it can go,” he said.