Each week, we seek expert advice to help a small or medium-sized business overcome a key issue.
Raw-food chef Tai Ali hit a nerve when he launched Juice Matters in Toronto last year.
Mr. Ali, who founded his cold-pressed juice concept in a single local store, has since expanded to 100 locations across Canada. His 473-millilitre bottles of vegetable and fruit juices are priced between $6.99 and $9.99.
"Juice Matters was started from a deeply rooted belief that nutrition should be a lifestyle and not a diet," says Mr. Ali, who is an athlete and a George Brown College-educated chef.
While training as an amateur soccer player, he began adding fruit to freshly blended vegetable juice to counter muscle fatigue. But he didn't become fanatical about it.
"I eat meat and dairy, he says. "Juices, which are rich in nutrients, vitamins and plant-based proteins and fibres, are just another way of ensuring I am taking good care of myself."
The company's 16 blends include combinations of kale, collard, celery, yellow peppers, dandelion, mint, ginger, apples, lemons and strawberries. The juices are produced in a factory near Toronto using a cold water treatment known as high pressure processing, or HPP. This cold pasteurization technique inhibits microbes while preserving the nutritional value of the juice. No water, sugar or preservatives are added.
Juice Matters has become popular with practitioners of juice cleanses. But that's not Mr. Ali's target market. He wants Canadians of all stripes to see juices as tools for achieving long-term health.
"Juicing is not always about detoxing but more about achieving a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle," Mr. Ali says. "But it's a constant challenge to educate consumers about the benefits."
Mr. Tai would like to persuade consumers to see juice as an integral component of the Canadian diet – and appeal beyond the already converted.
The Challenge: How can Juice Matters change the way people see juice?
THE EXPERTS WEIGH IN
Aaron Skelton, vice-president of brands and business development, Greenspace Brands Inc., which develops, markets and sells premium convenience natural-food products, Toronto
Education is a challenge when you are looking to "enlighten" consumers. Ensuring that you have clear, fact-based evidence that is easy to explain is important. Distill down the message and use engaging visual tools such as infographics.
Don't shy away from pivoting your message when feedback starts rolling in. Once you feel comfortable with your approach, though, be consistent. All aspects of your marketing initiatives, from face-to-face experiential, social media and traditional print, should carry that same "drumbeat" to ensure it is credited back to the brand.
Provide a clear value proposition to the consumer. Try a "this or that" angle: "You could eat this bushel of apples, kale and lemons, or enjoy this bottle of …" Play up the comparison and the absurdness of it all. "Who could possible eat that much?" Consumers are constantly looking for a convenient way to get what they know is good for them, and highlighting that convenience can go a long way.
The 473-millilitre bottles of vegetable and fruit juices are priced between $6.99 and $9.99. To see more pictures of the juicing process, click here. (J.P. Moczulski for The Globe and Mail)
Elspeth Copeland, principal at Elspeth Copeland Consulting, which creates new products for retail and food-service markets, Toronto
To reach more customers and broaden juicing from fad to regular behaviour, Mr. Ali will need to broaden his distribution. The best way to do this is to move from his current "specialty store" retail base to larger, multi-unit chain accounts. In order to appeal to larger networks of retailers, he has a few factors to consider:
Production – Does his current production facility have capacity? Does it meet quality assurance requirements? He will need to ensure he has secure capacity before approaching larger retailers. If he does not, he may want to consider a secondary facility, perhaps on the West Coast, to service that market. Perhaps partnering with another juice producer for a co-packing arrangement could be a solution.
Shelf life – HPP processing under the right conditions could give him a shelf life of 45-60 days, which will be right on the cusp of acceptability for refrigerated products for larger retailers. Typically, product needs to arrive at retailers' distribution centres with 80 per cent of shelf life remaining. Alternately, direct store-delivery supply chains can often allow for a shorter shelf-life requirement, or he could look at optimizing his process and formulas to ensure the longest shelf life possible.
Price point and differentiation – Who are his key competitors? What are the claims they are making? What are their price points? And most importantly, how does his product fit in with the category today? Is he priced similar to what's already in the market or is he priced to reflect a better product? In order to attract more consumers, he should strive for an attractive price point relative to other products in the category, while maximizing differentiation and benefits of his product. The higher the price the more you need to communicate the benefits of your product. You need to be very clear about how your product is different and better for you than what's already out there.
Flavour – Juice Matters should ensure its recipes have the broadest appeal possible while remaining true to brand promise. Core juicers and "detoxers," who are likely the bulk of his consumer base today, may have different taste preferences compared with the broader market. The key is to offer mainstream taste appeal while maintaining the essence of his brand – it's a fine balance.
Mr. Ali prepares carrots for juicing. (J.P. Moczulski for The Globe and Mail)
Peter Neal, co-owner of Neal Brothers Foods Inc., makers of gourmet snacks, and Hanna Neal Wine Co., global wine merchant, Concord, Ont.
Mr. Ali needs to educate consumers on the everyday health benefits of his juices compared with the snacks and meals they are regularly eating. His slogan "What you drink matters" is good, but I think he can better convince mainstream consumers to switch old habits.
Once the message and taglines have been created he needs to shout it out to mainstream consumers. Depending on the budget he should engage consumers via media, consumer trade shows and in-store sampling. I would highly recommend that he hire his own staff for the shows and sampling – hiring young graduates with a nutrition background would be ideal. I also would recommend a PR/communications company work with him on all of these initiatives.
He could use some of the creative material that will be produced for point-of-sale merchandising call-outs such as shelf talkers. He could also look at his own fridge units that would be branded with his messages for the independent retailers who will allow him space.
He could also consider being the face and voice of this brand. He is obviously passionate about the benefits of his products and the category at large, so it would be very meaningful for consumers to hear his story.
THREE THINGS THE COMPANY COULD DO NOW
This or that
In marketing, play up the comparison between his nutritious juices and regular snack foods.
This will get your message across to a greater number of consumers.
Work with a PR company on your message and how best to get it across.
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Interviews have been edited and condensed.