“We want people who don't know about yuzu, to experience an authentic tasting yuzu, and get that wow factor from it as opposed to the mass-market diluted version that it would become if no one was really championing the flavor and trying to make sure that people are getting it the best way possible.”
From Health-Ade to Yuzuco: Addressing a market need
When Beshkov, who worked for Chareau and Health-Ade, came up with the idea for a yuzu-based beverage he found yuzu juice was hard to come by and what was on the market wither didn’t taste authentic was “very expensive and not very good," he said. So, the birth of Yuzuco “started from a place of need” and making yuzu juice and related ingredients more readily available in the US, he added.
“I fell in love with yuzu as a flavor as a consumer a number of years ago, and I happened to be working in product development at Health-Ade Kombucha where I was making products like watermelon, passion fruit tangerine, and I really wanted to launch a yuzu flavor kombucha... There were a lot of reasons lining up for why yuzu would be successful in that particular product category. And when I set about to actually go find the juice and make the product happen, that's where the wheels came off the project.”
To make yuzu juice more available in the US, Beshkov said he knew that Yuzuco would need “to get a large amount of yuzu [juice] cost-effectively from Japan." Since yuzu is primarily grown in Asia and it takes 10 years for a yuzu plant to produce fruit, he saw importing yuzu juice from Japan as being crucial to increasing its availability in the US.
Yuzuco is selling yuzu juice in several retail chains and through its direct-to-consumer from its site, while also being an ingredient to use in cocktails and mocktails, he added.
“The overall idea is to make yuzu easy for people to find and very easy for people to use."
Yuzuco also wants to provide to CPG brands yuzu-based ingredients, including yuzu juice power, which has become a important ingredient in protein bars, Beshkov said.
While yuzu juice from Japan is more expensive, Yuzuco also offers a yuzu peel puree, which is a byproduct of yuzu juice that CPG brands can blend with yuzu juice to achieve a yuzu flavor at a fraction of the cost, he added.
Goals for the future: Find funding, expand to other products
Yuzuco is focusing on expanding distribution to raise the profile of yuzu, Beshkov said. “Yuzu is not going to break through into the mainstream and become my mother's favorite citrus if it's just an ingredient [for] sale,” he added.
“We have the ability to service customers like Erewhon on the higher end and also customers like [Porto’s Bakery] that are talking to a more mass audience. That shows that yuzu has appeal across a range of consumers. So that's our strategy is just really getting it available in the places where yuzu will be featured most easily by operators who can work with the product.”
Yuzuco is looking to raise money to spread the word on yuzu further, reinforce its supply chain and provide new products like yuzu oils, he said. He also wants to develop products tailored to specific applications, facilitate large runs of yuzu powder and boost stock on the East Coast -- all of which are capital intensive.
“We could sum up this last year as testing [if] people [are] interested in yuzu [and] can we source it. Can we make it happen? The answer is a resounding yes. So, looking ahead to the end of this year and beginning of next, we need to raise more funds to increase our yuzu supply."