If you have been told often as a child to eat your greens before you get to the tasty stuff, you’re definitely not alone. Unfortunately, for those with a taste for rich food, green leafy vegetables can cause quite the gag reflex. With a new diet in the news almost every day and customers responding to the exhortations of doctors to eat healthy, it is very easy to disregard cold-pressed juices as just another health fad. The newborn fad of cold-pressed juicing started with Norman W Walker’s invention of the process in the US in the 1930s.
The process involved juicing the fruits and vegetables at low temperatures in a bid to avoid the oxygenation of the mixture, which, according to nutritionists, is one reason why these juices have an edge over regular freshly squeezed juices. The end product has more fructose content than regular juices and this is one of the reasons these juices are also more expensive, the other factor being the steep cost of the machinery itself.
Indian entrepreneurs have taken up the challenge of spreading the love for fresh cold-pressed juices after the rest of the world saw it turn into a major trend in the health sector. The past one-and-a-half years have seen many companies spring up in major cities to serve the purpose and quench the thirst for genuine health drinks.
On a trip abroad in 2013, Vishal Jain — who was then working in the finance sector — came across a variety of juices on sale that were healthy and invigorating. Feeling the need for such juices back home as well, Jain did some research and in May 2014 started operating JusDivine in Mumbai. Starting off with an initial investment of ₹2 crore, Jain now sells close to 12 different flavours under the brand.
Unlike other companies operating in the space, Jain sells each bottle independently, without customers having to pay up for pre-decided packages. Starting with a minimum of ₹250, JusDivine offers repeat online customers points to be redeemed on future purchases. With a revenue of ₹10 lakh per month at present, JusDivine is expected to touch ₹40 lakh per month in revenue over the next 18 months. It has tied up with retail stores such as Foodhall and Godrej Nature’s Basket and derives 75% of its revenue from this space.
Carol Singh and her sister Nadia Singh Behl were one of the first to join the cold-pressed movement when they started Antidote in Gurgaon with their mother, Simran. Says Singh, “It was only after being actively involved in R&D for a year and making deals with vendors for the raw materials and other nitty-gritties that we started the company in October 2013.” Started with an initial investment of ₹40 lakh, Antidote’s first batch was retailed by the sisters in the Delhi-NCR region.
It started selling its drinks at the Wills India Fashion Week that year, where the brand received several queries. Currently, Antidote sells juices in 10 flavours, including those containing superfoods such as ashwagandha, amla and the like. It sells juices for weight loss, detox, skin and hair health, anti-ageing and cleansing and purification of the body. The weight loss potion is the most popular till date.
Singh adds, “The superfoods fortify the juices they are mixed with. The idea was to give people a nutritious solution in an urban environment. Not everyone has the time to have three bowls of salad a day. We wanted to offer instant nutrition in a bottle to our customers.” Because of the juices’ low shelf life of 72 hours, Antidote has not been able to expand beyond north India. However, the sisters are planning to open shop in Mumbai and Bengaluru soon. Says Singh, “Right now, we are mostly looking at standalone orders. We plan to expand to corporate houses and hotels at discounted prices once we begin our retail channels. We also do a lot of collaborative sales with restaurants, hotels and spas.”
In the western suburbs of Mumbai, Tejomay Rastogi remembers carrying up to eight tiffins while she was working at an advertising agency so she could catch up with her meals. Making fresh juices for herself was out of the question. Along with boyfriend and business partner Avrio Rebello, Rastogi decided to start her own venture — Juicifix. She says, “We started with the purpose of selling juices in carts outside parks. People are more likely to believe the juice is fresh when it is prepared in front of you. Of course, the process is not as effective as cold-pressed juicing is and will never be.”
Starting out with serving friends and family in a particular area of the city to now expanding to a city-wide model, the couple has developed a delivery system that drops off the juices between 6 am and 9 am every day. Apart from door-to-door delivery, the brand also sells juices at art studios and kiosks. Started with an initial investment of around ₹45 lakh (including ₹15 lakh from Rastogi’s savings and the rest from family and friends), Juicifix now boasts of 16 fruit flavours and expects to sell 500-600 bottles per day by the end of year, making ₹20 lakh per month by the end of FY16.
The fruit flavours, which Rastogi blends personally, are tested by her team and a nutritionist before they are sold on the market. She adds, “One of the reasons we are still pursuing the business is because I am deeply invested in making the juices by coming up with new flavours and testing them out every day.” One of the processes she has included in the juicing process is to add back the important fibre that juicing strips away. And Rastogi is not alone. Pilot Rahul Monga and his wife Anu used to live in New Zealand before moving back to India early last year. While in New Zealand, they tried making business plans for the nascent health sector in India, and JustPressed was the result of those plans.
The former pilot says, “It’s strange that in our generation, no one hesitates to spend ₹200 on a cup of coffee but we hesitate to spend the same amount on fresh juices, which are a far healthier option.” Starting operations in August 2014 with an initial investment of ₹1 crore, the couple is sitting pretty with a revenue of ₹10 lakh a month in the short time that the company has been in play. They have achieved this by tying up with Foodhall and Nature’s Basket. Monga continues, “We get a fair amount of our sales from retail outlets. Juices are also a seasonal product. During peak season, our offline retail sales are about 40% of our revenue. About 75-80% of our clients are repeat customers, which is quite encouraging considering that there is so much competition.”
However, JustPressed’s growth hasn’t allowed it any net profit due to significant investments. Monga isn’t worried, though. He says, “On a month-to-month basis, we have a growth of about 10-15%, which is pretty impressive for a start-up.” The brand plans to increase this to ₹4 crore by the end of the year by venturing into unprocessed food markets and by launching gluten-free muesli and trail mixes. Though the couple kicked off with the Delhi-NCR region to begin with, they have now expanded their network to the neighbouring cities of Jaipur and Agra among others. The pricing, though steep, includes the cost of delivery, taxes, licenses and the option of refunds and replacements.
But the biggest player in the juices game is Anuj Rakyan. Coming from a family of health enthusiasts, Rakyan started RAW Pressery with ₹1.1 crore (including angel investments) in January 2014. After returning from the US, he realised that the shelves were devoid of options for healthy drinks; rather, they just didn’t exist. With the Tropicanas and Reals of the world flooding the shelves in the name of fresh juice, he realised that this problem could be solved with cold-pressed juices. Says Rakyan, “We have to think of innovative ways to push the product without making it into a fad. It’s much cooler to wake up at 6 am and have fruit juice. People want to look and feel healthier. We need to tell them that health is not a woman wearing a white saree and a halo.” Tying up with the dabbawala deliverymen of Mumbai, RAW Pressery also delivers its products between 6 am and 9 am.
After another round of investment by Sequoia Capital in January this year, RAW Pressery ended FY15 with an annualised run rate of ₹6 crore and expects that figure to rise to ₹24 crore by the end of FY16. It is also planning to expand to Pune, Bengaluru, Delhi and Hyderabad in the coming months. But with its current shelf life of three days, how will the product reach other cities?
Says Rakyan, “Currently, we are air-shipping products and the juices reach between 6.30 am-9 am. Logistics in Mumbai are not that difficult to figure out. But for the rest of the country, we plan to air ship.” In future, the brand plans to use a new technology to extend shelf life to 45 days. Adds Rakyan, “With increased shelf life, we aim to achieve scalability. Retail sales and home delivery will also drive sales. We are also looking at organised retail online to expand aggressively. Right now, retail sales are very low and the shelf life restricts our sales. In about six to eight months, we expect it to become almost 65% of our top-line revenue.”
One of the biggest challenges that these companies face is educating consumers. Not only are these juices not half as delicious as regular squeezed juices but they are also very expensive. The extraction process — because it takes all of the nutrients out of the fruits but produces very little juice — uses up a lot of the produce that is meant for the juicing, due to which the greatest cost to these companies is the produce itself. The machinery is expensive, and though it is a one-time expense, it is a substantial cost. While these firms currently cater to local consumers by outsourcing the delivery to dabbawalas as in the case of Juicifix and RAW Pressery, some of the companies have also tied up with logistics companies to handle their delivery.
But logistical challenges haven’t deterred these entrepreneurs — they are confident of the processes they have implemented to create the juices. Jain says, “The market has just been introduced to juices a decade ago. Back then, people used to find Tropicana very expensive. Since then, the market has grown. While it is difficult to market an expensive product like ours, convincing people about the benefits of using fresh fruits and vegetables does work.”
Says Monga, “The Indian consumer is quite particular about prices. But what people don’t understand is that the cheaper products contain only 2-3% juice.” It helps that the clientele of such companies is not restricted to standalone orders alone.
Says Rakyan, “We have a 72% retention right now. We have different packages for homes, corporates, restaurants, fitness centres, universities and offices. Their demand and frequency of purchase is very different. The best deals are available for schools because getting kids healthy is a good idea and school managements are onboard with that. And there are very few customers who don’t reorder.”
The perishable raw materials used also give some of these entrepreneurs trouble. Juicifix and JusDivine use seasonal fruits and vegetables to be able to expand their menu and they feel the pinch. Rastogi says, “While we have maintained a relationships with our vendors, it is very difficult to make people understand that standardisation is not a given — not when the ingredients are a 100% natural.” Jain adds that raw materials — fruits and vegetables — are his greatest costs. Antidote’s Singh thinks otherwise, “We were very clear that our product needs to benefit people or it will die out. In India, we are lucky that we have varied climates and temperatures so that we get easy access to these products. Our R&D team ensured that we were prepared with vendors beforehand.”
Most of these ventures sell their products on a subscription package basis. Juicifix has packages ranging from five days to 90 days, with the price for each bottle reducing as you keep increasing the number of days. For a five-day package, the juices cost ₹140 per bottle, while for a 90-day package, they cost ₹110 per bottle. Antidote packages range from ₹6,400 for seven days to ₹9,000 for 10 days.
JusDivine does not currently sell packages but its individual juices range from ₹150 for 250 ml to ₹400 for a litre. JustPressed and RAW Pressery offer different packages for different cleansing or detox purposes. JustPressed’s packages are in the range of ₹1,600 a day to ₹7,800 for a month. They also sell individual bottles and offer corporate packages. RAW Pressery’s packages have light and deep cleanses that could range from day-long packages for ₹999 to 15-day-long packages ranging from ₹4,999.
On how she is balancing the nutrient value of the juices with their often unforgiving taste, Rastogi says, “There is a misconception that health food can’t be tasty and we are trying to change that. Whenever there is a bitter ingredient in the juice, we balance it out with a sweet one.” Rakyan is brutal — he believes health needs no compromise. “Our green juices sell the best. Healthy items are not going to be tasty but the benefits outweigh ideas like taste. Those are barriers we are trying to break.”
While the packaged juices market is valued at a whopping ₹1,100 crore, growing at a CAGR of 25-30%, it is still only 10% of the non-alcoholic beverages market. It goes without saying that the cold-pressed figure will be much lower, with this being a nascent category that people are only just warming up to.
The competition is only going to get fierce from here on. Says Rakyan, “We have seen many companies piggybacking on our success but there is a reason we’re still number one. We don’t want to lose that spot just yet.”
Since this is still a new sector that these ventures are exploring, they realise there is still a long way to go in terms of profits or breaking even. With multiple machines to maintain, rent for the facilities, impending marketing costs and the variable raw material costs in mind, they all say that breaking even won’t come easy.
Rakyan says, “Hitting break-even is still some time away as we are only adding to our capacity with more machines and more juices. We’re hoping the geographical expansion and using more distribution channels will help us get there soon.” Rebello is hopeful about Juicifix’s fate — with his sights set on the end of the year to break even — but maintains that a more realistic target would be for the middle of next year, that is, July 2016, at ₹20 lakh per month. JusDivine says it will be able to break even only at ₹2.5 crore.
Rahul adds, “There are so many players in the market that they won’t survive on the current low margins. So, we might see a few companies joining forces or amalgamating. Having said that, we haven’t faced any shortfall in revenue as the market is quite large. My only concern is that it’s going to be difficult to maintain quality as the number of players increase.”
Pinakiranjan Mishra, partner and national leader, retail and consumer products, Ernst & Young India, believes these companies present a chicken-or-egg scenario.
“They will have to look at pricing to gain volumes and scale up. Else, the juices will remain niche, just like the rest of the health sector. The consumer knows there will be other fresh fruit juice options available down the road. So, maybe the market is not mature enough to accept the current price levels and this presents a challenge for this business to grow faster.”
While Rastogi is on the lookout for investors, she has her doubts, especially when it comes to high-pressure processing (HPP), a procedure that juices go through to extend their shelf life from mere hours or days to weeks. She explains, “There are doubts about HPP compromising the quality of the juice. While I know that it is going to be imperative to switch to HPP if we want to scale up, I don’t think we want to compromise.”
Adds Singh, “The prospects of health and holistic living businesses in India are very good. I think the idea of living a much healthier lifestyle is something everyone is excited about.” Though analysts have been upbeat about this development, there are concerns about the acceptance of high prices by even the strictest of health fanatics. The hope remains that, maybe, with better distribution channels, deeper pockets and outreach, these companies might be able to spread the word further than the current niche they are in.