While the price tag - $8.99 for a 12oz bottle with a 60-day shelf-life (thanks to high pressure processing) - is high, it’s consistent with what people are paying for a bottle of premium cold-pressed juice, says Allan, who is now exploring whether the shelf-life could be raised to 90 days or more.
Meanwhile, his product can also work as a meal replacement (tagline: 'no bowl required'), says Allan, who spent time in Madrid while studying Spanish literature and marketing at college and was so bowled over by Spain - and gazpacho - that he moved to Barcelona after he graduated and spent another three years there before heading back to the US.
“The price hasn’t held me back so far - and the market allows for it because it’s fresh, exciting and new,” he told FoodNavigator-USA.
“I’m also using premium organic ingredients. But my goal is to get it down to $7.99. Will it be available in every 7-Eleven? Maybe, maybe not, but is it something that has legs in the natural, specialty and whole foods channel - definitely.”
What the branding experts say...
Lori Colman, co-CEO at branding and marketing agency CBD Marketing: I have not tried it, but love the idea of this, and the product looks delicious. That said, I do not love the packaging because it doesn't do a good job supporting the high price point and I think that will hurt sales. Perhaps promoting the high fiber or something more differentiating. Less sodium than most soup? Full 4 servings of vegetables? Even a 'full meal in a bottle' idea might help.
Beverly Murray, founder of branding agency R+M: A successful brand is 'built to connect' emotionally and Tio Gazpacho is on the right track. With a brand promise that embodies 'unapologetically cold, deliciously bold' I appreciate many of their packaging decisions. The logo itself pushes the edge of the bottle and works well on the backdrop of the natural product color. And, the use of the high-contrast soup spoon is a stroke of communications genius highlighting the old while introducing the new. As for consumer engagement, successful brands involve their customers. Providing emerging advocates with an opportunity to weigh in on future flavor combinations would be a great first step.
My aim is to go nationwide within around 18 months
Launched in September 2014, Tio Gazpacho is now in 40 locations (juice bars, independent retailers and other outlets) in and around Miami, FL.
But those figures could go up dramatically in 2015, predicts Allan, who scooped the coveted top prize (and a $10,000 check) in the BevNET Live 2014 New Beverage Showdown competition in December after blowing the judging panel away with his "disruptive" product, modern branding and "exceptional" taste profile.
The judges also felt Millennials would buy into the bold flavor profiles and the 'drink as a snack/meal' concept, says Allan, who reckons he could soon “triple or even quadruple” available very shortly, and is now talking to angel investors about securing funding to take the business to the next stage.
“We are working through deals with distributors in Florida, New Orleans, and the North East. We’re also about to go into [online grocer] Fresh Direct [in the New York metro area], which will immediately double our availability, and we have lots of other things in the pipeline so I am really excited.
"My aim is to go nationwide within around 18 months.”
It's not a smoothie, it’s soup
As for the positioning, he explains: "This merges soup and beverages; we’re creating a new category... People often ask, where does it go? It goes best in the produce aisle, where it is in context, rather than next to 25 different brands of premium juice, but it also works well as a grab and go product in the chiller."
While he could have marketed it as a super-premium ‘savory’ juice or vegetable smoothie, this is not strictly what it is, adds Allan, who recalls buying chilled tomato soups in Spain by the bucket load.
“It's not a smoothie, it’s soup, with oil and seasonings and vinegar in it, and we're not pressing out the fiber, so calling it a juice just didn't seem accurate to me. Also, I wanted to stand out, not to fit in."
I wanted to stand out, not to fit in
So when did his love for gazpacho turn into a business opportunity?
Sometime after he returned from Spain, says Allan, who worked in finance and HR for several years before heading to Miami in 2012 to work as a field organizer on the Obama campaign.
“I loved Miami. My friends had a smoothie bar and let me use their kitchen to make my soups. I didn’t have a clear game plan in 2013 - my first thought was trying to sell it to restaurants in a foodservice pack, and then I tried putting it in bowls and in Mason jars, and so on, so it went through several iterations, until I put it in a bottle, and then it suddenly made sense.”
He also discovered HPP, and came across Hyperbaric, and things started to slot into place very fast. “It turned out that they were five miles from my house, and they were the loveliest people. They gave me so much advice in the early days.”
Today, the product is manufactured by FreshBev in New Haven, Connecticut, which also has a HPP machine onsite.
You’re hoping it’s not a fluke or a flash in the pan
So does he ever wake up in a cold sweat wondering if he’s done the right thing, or was there a moment when he knew he was onto a winner?
“I still lie awake at night sometimes going through a checklist of all the things I’ve got to do,” admits Allan, who says there were some “terrifying” moments in the early days, as “I didn’t know what a reset was, a free-fill was”.
But he’s not lying there wondering whether the whole business is going to come crashing down.
“I think the moment when I knew [that Tio Gazpacho could be a hit] was sometime between Expo East in Baltimore [last fall] and BevNET Live [in early December].
“We just had a tremendous response at Expo East, but you’re still always hoping it’s not a fluke or a flash in the pan, and then at BevNET I just felt, we’ve arrived, that this could be a sustainable business.”
Tio Gazpacho comes in three flavors: gazpacho clásico (vine-ripened tomato, green pepper, cucumber); gazpacho verde (kale, spinach, avocado, mint); and gazpacho de sol (yellow tomato, yellow pepper, carrot).
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