Unlike premium cold-pressed juices, in which juice is squeezed out of fruits and veggies, Bayer starts with coconut meat (straight from the coconut, not the pre-prepared stuff you get in cans with xanthan gum and water added) and coconut water (again, straight from the coconut), then adds whole fruits, veggies, chia, flax, spirulina, maqui, cacao nibs and other ingredients into a blender, so the resulting smoothies are thick and more fibrous and can serve as meal replacements or hearty snacks.
Just one 8oz bottle is very filling
While the ingredients aren’t cheap, L.A-based Bayer and co-founder & COO Keith Landers – who manufacture the smoothies in-house and transport them to a nearby HPP facility in Carson – have recently developed an 8oz bottle (retailing at $4.99-$5.49 with a 35-day shelf-life) to encourage trial and make Genius Juice more accessible to new consumers, he says.
“A lot of people start with the 8oz and then graduate to the 16oz, but just one 8oz bottle is very filling. We could have developed a cheaper version using cheaper ingredients, but we don’t want to go down the road of adding purees and concentrates and things that have got no nutrition left because of the processing they have been through, so offering a smaller size means we can keep the integrity of the product.”
We’re one of the first HPP smoothies on the market
And the response from retailers and consumers has been extremely positive so far, he says:
“The first question is always how are you different from Suja and BluePrint and Evolution Fresh, but once they try the products it’s very obvious; coconut water and meat are the top two ingredients and the texture is very different.
“We’re one of the first HPP smoothies on the market and all of our products are organic and non-GMO Project Verified. But I think what customers and potential investors are thinking about, apart from sales velocity, is whether it’s scalable. Could it be in Target, Ralph’s, Costco? Can it be a national brand? And we feel that it can.”
The ‘Genius’ (“Einstein coconut head”) branding – which implies functionality but is mainly meant to be fun - is also key to its appeal, says Bayer.
“We had a huge amount of help on this from Shawn Sugarman [former president of Odwalla and CEO of Evolution Fresh].”
We want to dominate our backyard before moving into other markets
The flagship product – the original coconut smoothie, which contains only coconut meat and coconut water – is actually the second-best seller behind Genius Juice raw coconut water, which Bayer introduced to the range much later, but has turned out to be the ‘dark horse’ of the portfolio, he tells FoodNavigator-USA.
“We launched the products in July 2014 and now we’re in 65 locations in and around L.A. including Whole Foods, Lazy Acres, Bristol Farms, and several boutique coffee shops, plus some stores in San Diego. We hope to be in at least 200 by the end of the year, extending into northern California and the Pacific Northwest.
“But we’re trying to be methodical about it; we want to dominate our backyard before moving into other markets.”
As we scale up our costs will come down
As for financing Genius Juice, Bayer is currently looking to do a seed round of “at least half a million dollars” to take the business to the next level.
“When you start a new business like this, of course for a while you’re going to lose money," says Bayer, who is exhibiting at Expo West this week (booth #5573): "But as we scale up our costs will come down. By far our biggest expense is coconuts and if we can buy them in larger quantities that will make a big difference.
“It’s down to volume and distribution. We just need to scale up. We’ve run the numbers and we should be profitable in about another 10 months or a year. Our break-even point is really once we hit around half a million bottles or more.”
Know your competition, know your customers and know your consumers
And his advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs? “Know your competition, know your customers and know your consumers,” says Bayer, who had already built up some contacts and experience in the world of grocery before embarking on his Genius Juice adventure from working at LA-based organic food firm VirginRaw Foods.
“And pay attention to detail. Have a standard operating procedure in place so that your products are consistently of good quality."