Genius last week announced that it has discontinued its line of coconut smoothies and in its place launched a new line of organic “Superfood Smoothies.” Positioned as a healthy meal replacement drinks, the products are made with almond milk, superfood ingredients, including quinoa and maca, and plant-based protein.
In an interview with BevNET, founder and CEO Alex Bayer said Genius discontinued the coconut smoothies because the company’s distribution footprint had grown too large to handle the demands of production.
As Genius expanded out of its home market of California and into supermarkets in 23 states over the past two years, the effort involved in using fresh coconut juice and meat became a financial burden. The company uses co-packers for production of the smoothies; Bayer said the lack of its own facility put further stress on production.
Moreover, the coconut smoothies, priced between $5.99 and $7.99, were in “fierce” competition with lower-priced functional beverages and coconut waters and juices on the market. Bayer said that there also remains a struggle between coconut beverage companies for access to coconut suppliers.
“When we first started Genius it was much easier to make the product when we only had regional orders in southern California,” Bayer said. “As soon as we started expanding to other regions of the country we were not able to keep up with the demand. We weren’t able to produce enough bottles. It was an artisanal process that we used and it was very difficult.”
It’s not the first time Genius has made a significant change in its formulation. Last year the company revamped its coconut smoothies, swapping high pressure processing for pasteurization. It also added additional flavors and shortened its name from “Genius Juice,” which had been confusing to some customers.
With its new Superfood Smoothie line, Bayer said Genius has tripled the amount of bottles it produces in a third of the time. The products, which launched this month, come in three flavors, Original, Coffee, and Vanilla. Packaged in 12 oz. bottles and retailed at $4.99, the smoothies are marketed as meal replacements which each bottle containing 12g of protein, 9g of fat and between 230 and 270 calories, depending on variety.
It took about four months to develop the new line, Bayer said, and Genius was working against the clock to have it ready by the new year.
“Everyone knows what a ‘superfood’ is,” Bayer said. “We felt the timing was very, very right to get into that industry and pivot to becoming a superfood smoothie. And offering not just healthy, clean ingredients, but also functional value and benefits.”
According to Bayer, Genius’s distributors were supportive of the pivot. Last year, Genius was picked up by UNFI and Kehe and is now in three regions of Whole Foods, Natural Grocer’s, Central Market, Akin’s and Chamberlin’s, and Royal Blue Grocery. In particular, Bayer credited the work of Southern California-based specialty distributor Hi-Touch for working with retailers during the product transition.
With its new products, Genius is also in a series A funding round seeking $1.2 million from investors. Bayer said the company is hoping to raise the money to support development of the Superfood Smoothies and increase brand awareness. Currently, Genius is advertising via in-store demos, sponsorship of charity events in California, and an online social media campaign to inform consumers of the change.
“I think the gains outweigh what we’re losing,” Bayer said. “We’re gaining more people that generally love superfoods and they love the higher protein. It’s at a price point that is much more affordable to the mainstream and our mission is to bring nutrition to the mainstream. To bring our smoothies to the mainstream. With this pivot, I feel we are now able to reach that level.”