What happens when an indie cold-pressed juice darling is acquired by a corporate behemoth, albeit a healthy one? Ask Erica Huss and Zoe Sakoutis, the founders of Blueprint.
The duo built an incredibly successful lifestyle brand that was just sold to Hain Celestial for a rumored $60 million, based on the business of six cleansing juices.
To know their intentions, goals, and successes is to understand how juicing has become a hot-and-healthy household necessity—and an industry now worth $2.25 billion and growing at a fast clip.
And thanks to Huss and Sakoutis, who proved juice could be big business, there are now dozens of juice players trying to squeeze serious profits from cold-presssing kale.
How did two young women without MBAs strike green-juice gold? (And how will their new corporate keeper influence the company’s path?) We sat down with the pair over green juice, of course, and found out.
On the nascent juice scene of 2007, Huss and Sakoutis were the first to believe that high-quality, cold-pressed juicing, which better retained the nutrients and enzymes of plants, wasn’t just something for raw foodies and vegans—it was a healthy lifestyle product that the rest of us needed. Their motto “We think, you drink” meant that juicing would fit into our lives and lifestyles, we didn’t have to bend to its.
And in just 4 years (the time the line’s been on the market), Blueprint made swigging veggie-blended concoctions for three days at your job as healthy as a spa weekend, and as desirable as wearing Lululemon.
A laser focus on juice
Doing one thing well at a time has served the Blueprint brand really well. They sold online cleanses that shipped to your door and consciously avoided the real estate overhead of a juice bar. Instead of a creating a cornucopia of juice blends, they made just six. And when they felt that food production was getting too cumbersome for a company of their size, they put the kibosh on Juice Till Dinner until they could properly scale it.
“We made the decision to grow by establishing ourselves first with expertise in one specific area, in order to earn the trust and respect of our clients. We saw other brands in different industries try to broaden and diversify, only to leave consumers wondering what their actual expertise was,” says Huss.
In talking to them, you become aware of their laser focus on getting cold-pressed juice to more people, period. It’s been a cornerstone of their brand success. And it drew lots of meetings with those who could take the mission farther, like Hain.
“The partnership isn’t just strategic, it’s based on a like-minded philosophy,” says Huss. “BluePrint is a special brand in a special space that we feel we created. Our philosophies needed to align with any potential partner. “Hain sees us as more than a beverage company. They see us as a lifestyle brand.”
“It made more sense than a Coke or a Pepsi,” Sakoutis jokes.
The cleanse company that became a juice company
While Blueprint started as cleanse product and built a huge following of workaholics, foodies, and healthy types who could elect for a Renovation, Foundation, or Excavation based on their level of cleanse-commitment, the company has since dropped that emphasis and in the past year ramped up its bottled beverage distribution to Whole Foods and other high-end groceries, so it’s right next to the kombucha and bottled water in the grab-and-go section.
“Tribeca moms were the first to drive us into the wholesale business and Whole Foods,” says Huss. “They loved the cleanse but were like ‘I don’t want to do a cleanse every week, but I do want a green juice every morning.’”
Hain’s helping hand
The green-juice-a-day concept is something that Hain will help them with. While Blueprint is now in 412 stores, Sakoutis adds, every single natural food brand that you know is under the Hain umbrella.” So Blueprint green juice (“Kale University”) and cashew milk (“Cash In”) can easily be inserted into any retailer currently stocking Celestial Seasonings teas, Spectrum Coconut Oil, and Health Valley soups.
Says Sakoutis: “With Hain, we’ll still reach the same customers, but we’ll reach them at more moments in their lives”—at the gym, when they need a snack, and probably in places that will surprise us in the coming months.
“We’re expanding the reach for people who are already our customers and haven’t had access, and reaching new ones,” Huss says.
Ditto launching foods, like nutrition bars that Blueprint created a year ago but reeled in (along with their Juice Till Dinner food program) during the past year. “For customers who’ve just done a cleanse, they don’t want a juice, but they want a snack bar. Or for someone who’s just never going to drink green juice, they do want a healthier snack,” says Huss.
Retail at last: A California flagship
Now the brand will have its first-ever outpost in Venice, California. “We’re the only ones in our category that don’t have retail!” says Erica, with obvious excitement about the flagship. “Our goal was to focus on a wider roll out in natural food stores, not create our own.”
Part of what will be showcased at the Blueprint retail store when it opens this summer will be a “3D-extension and experience of the brand” that customers and fans just haven’t had access to.
At the store, you’ll be able to purchase and sample juices. (They recently launched Ginger Aid, the first addition to the menu of six juices since the company’s inception, and they plan to debut more.) Expect an approachable vibe and experience.
“BluePrint isn’t a preachy concept. Yes, we want to talk to you about it and teach you about it, but it’s for everyone,” says Huss. “You don’t have show your vegan ID at the door,” Sakoutis quips.
“We’ve never been about the dogma, just the juice,” says Huss. “You don’t have be a vegan or a raw foodie to drink a juice.” —Melisse Gelula and Alexia Brue