Evolution Fresh has some big advantages in its campaign to make a cup of fruit and vegetable juice as easy to getas a Starbucks latte — a beverage superstar for a parent company; an innovative, flavor-saving juicing process; and a wide-ranging, multichannel business model.
Since Starbucks bought Evolution Fresh for $30 million in late 2011, the brand has opened its first four retail stores — three in the Seattle area, one in San Francisco — and expanded distribution of its packaged juices to about 2,200 Starbucks outlets and 1,500 premium grocers and natural-foods stores in the Western United States. And this is just the start of the upscale juice maker’s big ambitions.
“We are going to move Evolution Fresh into a national lifestyle brand, and we have the benefit of Starbucks’ scale and resources and expertise to do that,” said Sara Trilling, general manager, Evolution Fresh.
Thanks to Starbucks, Evolution Fresh “has a great road map to follow,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic Inc. He cited beverage expertise and financial strength as the key benefits the coffee giant is sharing with its juice subsidiary.
For its part, Starbucks enters the $1.6 billion super-premium juice segment and gains another premium beverage offering for its health-minded customers.
“This fits their strategy of having better-quality coffee, baked items and fresh juices that give Americans the kind of healthfulness they want,” Tristano said.
The Evolution Fresh “juicery” in Southern California supplies safe and flavorful juices to its own stores, the Starbucks units and the food retailers. It uses an innovative technology called high-pressure pasteurization, or HPP, to treat fresh fruit and vegetable juices with extremely high pressure, which destroys microbes and boosts the shelf life of juices to an average of 35 to 45 days — advantageous for distributing a fresh product over a wide area.
Furthermore, HPP is a nonthermal process, so it does not diminish the flavor or nutrient content of juices like conventional heat pasteurization. Hence the tagline “Cold-squeezed. Never heated.” on product labels.
“Others are beginning to pick up on it, but I think we have a head start, especially with the support and backing of Starbucks,” Trilling said.
Greeting patrons inside an Evolution Fresh store is a “tap wall” with eight spigots of juice flavors, including Greens, Pineapple, Cucumber, Beet and Organic Apple. They are served straight or blended into a handcrafted juice drink like Field of Greens, a mixture of Greens, Organic Apple and Cucumber juices plus ginger. Healthful foods round out the menu.
Typical customers are “active wellness seekers,” but Trilling said as word spreads, the chain is “seeing a broader consumer base than one might imagine — including people of all shapes and walks and sizes.” Evolution Fresh is keeping mum about its expansion specifics, as well as the metrics of its retail stores.
“For us it is still early days,” Trilling said. “We are very, very focused on our existing stores. We will use those to guide our future growth plans and designs.”