“We will meet again.”
With that four-word Instagram post last week, the ongoing journey of Los Angeles-based cold pressed juice maker and retail chain Juice Served Here took yet another turn. After ceasing operations and closing its remaining juice bars in December, co-founder Greg Alterman, who issued the post, told BevNET that, despite facing a range of challenges, he’s confident that the brand has much more left to offer consumers.
“I made that post a couple nights ago just because it had been six months and I wanted to let the world know they hadn’t seen their last Juice Served Here bottle,” Alterman said. “I wanted to let the world know that we’ll see you again at some point; I don’t know exactly when that’s going to be, but we are dedicated to making that a reality.”
In declaring his intent to rebuild the brand, Alterman is aiming to recapture the consumer interest and positive momentum left behind after Juice Served Here’s closure at the end of last year. At the time, co-founder and former CEO Alex Matthews told BevNET that a combination of a medical emergency for the company’s CFO and investor “fatigue” had put pressure on the company to find new investment to meet its payroll obligations, and they were ultimately unsuccessful in doing so.
Alterman offered further details, noting that while individuals were willing to invest in Juice Served Here, that “it wasn’t in the interest of any shareholder to run the business the way it was then structured.” He described the company’s retail stores as “hemorrhaging” cash relative to the “thriving” wholesale business. The combination created an unsustainable situation, in which the company struggled to make its payroll from week-to-week even with a business that “was doubling every year.” According to Alterman, Juice Served Here was coming off its best wholesale month ever when it closed its doors.
“I like to say we made great juice, but we weren’t great juice makers,” he said, alluding to some of the strategic decisions, specifically the brand’s omnichannel approach, that weighed on its long-term prospects. Along with a total of 13 locations at its peak in 2015, Juice Served Here operated a 25,000 sq. ft. manufacturing and bottling facility, including a high pressure processing (HPP) machine, which it purchased in 2015.
“In a perfect world, we would find a co-packer and we would be great marketers and brand people. I believe that’s what we were the best at,” Alterman said. “We had a great juice and a well-liked brand. I believe that had we made those decisions sooner, we would still be around today and never would have had to halt production and operations.”
To initiate the process of dissolving the company, Matthews chose an assignment for the benefit of creditors. A less expensive alternative to declaring bankruptcy, the process entails the distressed company entering into an agreement with a third party that is charged with liquidating assets to pay back the company’s creditors. In this case, as a co-founder and investor in every round of financing for Juice Served Here, Alternative Beverage Concepts (ABC), the limited liability company that Alterman created to acquire the the intellectural property, eventually became the company’s sole secured creditor. When the assignee was unable to generate funds to pay off the balance, ABC foreclosed on the note and began to reacquire the brand’s intellectual property.
While still in its early planning stages, Alterman said the revamped Juice Served Here will simplify the company’s approach towards super-premium juices by exploring the use of co-packers, narrowing the number of SKUs and focusing exclusively on wholesale operations. He’s also hopeful of finding a strategic partner that can help him rebuild the brand. Otherwise, he said that everything from product positioning to serving size to price point is fair game for experimentation.
Alterman said he hadn’t spoken to Matthews or any other former Juice Served Here staff regarding being a part of the the planned re-launch, though he did not rule out the possibility of doing so in the future. He also distanced himself from the farewell statement posted to Instagram by Matthews in December.
“That was a statement he made himself without having consulted with the board,” Alterman said. “It wouldn’t have been my letter. I’m going to have a chance to write my letter and articulate what happened and the feelings of just heartbrokenness — letting down not only our shareholder and employees but the public and the customers.”
In a call with BevNET, Matthews, now the CMO at plant-based food and beverage company Forager, confirmed he was not involved in any way with the new ownership of Juice Served Here.
“When I assigned the rights to Juice Served Here over to the assignee, I relinquished all responsibility in any sort of decision making about who would become part of new ownership of [the company],” Matthews said. “That was my contractual obligation and I stuck to that. I was asked to submit groups over to them that would be a good fit to potentially buy the intellectual property, which I did. The new group was not on my list.”
With the considerable challenges that resurrecting the brand entails, why is Alterman choosing to dive back in? He underscored the emotional attachment he feels towards Juice Served Here, and the lingering feeling that it never fully realized its potential as a company. Based on the response to his Instagram post, he is feeling cautiously optimistic.
“If you see the comments [on the post], it’s indicative of how market feels about the brand and its value,” he said. “Hopeful we’ll give them a chance very soon to be back and feel like we haven’t deserted them.”