Evolution Under Pressure at Expo West — And that’s a Good Thing

It’s been one of the hardest questions for high-end juice brands to answer: sure, your juice is the freshest. But how do you keep it that way?

The answer, in most cases, has been high-heat pasteurization, a process that increases the shelf life of the product but often kills that “fresh-squeezed taste” sought by so many companies.

For Evolution Fresh, the second run at the super-premium juice category pioneered by Naked Juice founder Jimmy Rosenberg, that question has also been the limiting factor. With pulpy, vibrant flavors, Evolution has been a clear leader on taste for several years – but with no way to extend product life beyond a week or two, it’s also clearly been a prisoner to its region. It was even hard to get the product beyond California’s eastern border.

That’s why a new process at Evolution, High Pressure Pasteurization (HPP), left Rosenberg all smiles during last weekend’s Natural Products Expo West show in Anaheim, Calif. Using HPP, Evolution products are subjected to thousands of pounds of pressure after they are bottled, effectively wiping out any potentially pathogenic bacteria without the high temperatures that can damage the juice.

Under HPP, the brand has a 45-day shelf life – a length previously unheard of in non-pasteurized fresh juice. It’s an expensive process that has not yet been deployed in the U.S. – in fact, the company is still experimenting with its effects on various juice types – but the company was developed proprietary packaging and will be launching 5 SKUs of the juices nationally in July.

“We can go across the country,” said Rosenberg, as he offered up samples of orange, apple, and tangerine juice at his booth. “We’ve redone the whole thing, and we can grow a business. Two years ago, we didn’t know if things were going up or down.”

Juice experts questioned during the show agreed that the process held a great deal of potential for the brand, which has long had the advantage of Rosenberg’s intense expertise but had faced severe downside limitations. Last year, Evolution garnered investment from Fireman Capital Partners, which helped the company purchase the equipment needed to do high-pressure bottling.

Now, with new CEO Shawn Sugarman in place, the company has also brought on a slate of new executives whose purpose is to take the artisan company across the country. Evolution recently brought on Matt Buckley, another Naked Juice veteran, as an executive vice president. Overlooking the brand at Expo West was Stacy Madison, the co-founder of Stacy’s Pita Chips, who now works with Fireman Capital.

“We’ve had the juice, now we have the management team and the technology,” Sugarman said. “Big retailers are coming by. This is a big thing at this show.”