Taste Radio Ep. 70: Suja CEO: Here’s How To Make Your Own Luck; Kefir’s Moment

Episode 70 of BevNET’s Taste Radio podcast spotlights a recent conversation with Jeff Church, the co-founder and CEO of Suja, a maker of organic beverages, including high-pressure processed juices, drinking vinegars, and kombucha. At the helm since 2012, Church has guided Suja’s remarkable ascent as the leading brand in a highly competitive cold-pressed juice category and was instrumental in its partnership with the Coca-Cola Co., which in 2015 acquired a 30 percent stake in the company.

Recorded at Suja’s vast production facility in San Diego, Church opined on the role of luck in business, why a thorough understanding of consumer demand is critical to success, and explained how “the rule of twos” helped steer the company through its growth and development. Also included in this episode: BevNET assistant editor Marty Caballero and senior brand specialist Jon Landis examined the emerging market for kefir and discussed key brands, sub-segments, including water kefir and plant-based varieties, consumer confusion, and recent controversy regarding its definition. The episode also includes the latest edition of Elevator Talk, with featured guest Bronya Shillo, the founder of spiked lemonade brand Fishers Island Lemonade.

Show notes:

1:21: Call Me Spicy — A warm-up on how peppery and piquant flavors continue to permeate packaged food and beverages. Hosts Ray Latif, John Craven, Jon Landis and Mike Schneider discuss stalwart ingredients and ones that are rising to the mainstream. The group also chats about food and beverage categories in which added spice works well and where it doesn’t.

8:01: Interview — John sits down with Suja CEO Jeff Church. The discussion includes Church’s thoughts on innovation, what “luck” really means, Suja’s continued expansion of its production facility as a barrier to entry for other brands in the premium juice space, the impact and benefits of Suja’s partnership with Coca-Cola, and an upcoming collaboration with coconut water brand (and Coke stablemate) Zico.

36:49: Why Is Kefir “a Thing?” — Kefir appears to be gaining traction as more consumers seek out probiotic-laden beverages and foods. Lifeway remains the dominant player, but several brands marketing dairy-free and water-based kefir products have emerged. Jon Landis and Marty Caballero talk about the origins of packaged kefir in the U.S. and the development of the category.

57:17: Elevator Talk — This week we chat with Bronya Shillo, the founder of Fishers Island Lemonade, a brand of spiked lemonade that was created at The Pequot Inn on Fishers Island, N.Y.

Brands in this episode: Suja, Lifeway, GT’s Kombucha, Maple Hill Creamery, Forager, Dahlicious, Water Kefir People, KeVita, Fisher’s Island Lemonade, 5 Stones Artisan Brewery

For sponsorship opportunities, feedback and suggestions contact podcast@bevnet.com.