Suja, which was acquired by private equity firm Paine Schwartz Partners in July 2021, said the acquisition of Vive Organic bolsters its position in the emerging wellness shots category and will help grow consumer awareness along with household penetration, which remains stubbornly low compared to the rest of the healthy functional beverage set, according to Suja CEO Bob DeBorde.
"Juice shots have been the fastest growing part of the natural healthy beverage category with over 50% growth in the last year. And we see a lot of runway ahead of it," DeBorde told FoodNavigator-USA.
"If you look at household penetration, brand awareness, or other consumer metrics, it still is really in its infancy as far as how many consumers have tried the category and how many still, we believe we can recruit into the category."
Vive CEO: 'Immunity is still the No. 1 need state for why people are purchasing wellness shots'
Packaged in tiny plastic bottles and found in the chilled functional beverage sets at retail, many consumers have turned to cold-pressed juice shots as a quick immunity-boosting solution they can knock back on occasion as opposed to a daily beverage (partially contributing to its lower household penetration).
But while consumers' health concerns have tempered over the past year, immunity is still a major draw to the wellness shots category, noted DeBorde and Vive Organic co-founder and CEO Wyatt Taubman.
"Vive historically has leaned into immunity and we know that immunity is still the No. 1 need state for why people are purchasing wellness shots... 75% of cold-pressed juice shots are currently immunity focused and Vive Organic leads that with the largest number of SKUs that are focused on boosting the immune system," Taubman told FoodNavigator-USA.
And for Suja Juice, its top-selling wellness shot is its immunity-focused SKU with turmeric and probiotics, according to DeBorde.
But in order to develop that daily usage occasion, both Suja and Vive are exploring more functional need states beyond immunity.
"We will also continue to look for opportunities to address more need states, more flavor profiles, and a wider range of price points between the two brands. So the two brands are well positioned in that regard," added Taubman.
On paper Suja and Vive seem like an ideal match and embrace the same core values of holistic wellness, but is there too much overlap between the brands which both offer a range of functional, organic, and non-GMO cold-pressed juice shots that could lead to one brand cannibalizing the other?
According to both DeBorde and Taubman, both brands have co-existed successfully in the market for the past several years and address slightly different needs and consumer segments.
"We're very complementary but from a brand perspective, we're nicely differentiated. Suja is focused more on offering high-quality, wide-ranging, tasty, multifunctional products, where Vive is more anchored in efficacy and potency," said Taubman.
Both brands are priced slightly differently to attract a wide range of consumers interested in supporting their personal health and well-being.
"Suja is more 'accessible premium' where Vive is more on the premium side of the spectrum," added Taubman.
The acquisition would also open more doors to both brands in terms of distribution, added DeBorde.
"On the retail front, there are places we sit next to each other. There are places where Vive has distribution and Suja does not, there are places where Suja has distribution and Vive does not. Ultimately the purpose of this partnership is incrementality versus switching one out for the other one," DeBorde said.
"The fact that the shots category as a whole still has a very low household penetration even though it's the fastest growing segment tells me there's a lot more to come on innovation on both sides as well as distribution on both sides."
Outside of retail, both brands will be targeting the away-from-home channel and seeking placement in alternative outlets such as airports, gyms, universities, and offices, added DeBorde.
Capturing new whitespace
Asked about how the immediate strategic priorities for the business, DeBorde said the business combination will allow for a faster path to growth and scale.
"The way we look at it in the short haul is first integrating the two companies so that we can take advantage of that scale," said DeBorde.
"Putting the two companies together gives us greater access to consumer insights, to proven R&D, and we'll be able to jointly put the sales and marketing groups together to capture new whitespace accounts and new opportunities as well as brand positioning opportunities to help invest in the category and drive the category," he added.