A bottle of Dirty Lemon is to today’s digital superstars what a Venti Starbucks cup was to Rachel Zoe and the Olsen twins in the mid-aughts—not only a pick-me-up, but an era-defining accessory.
Since launching online in August 2015, the New York City-based functional beverage brand’s Raw Detox drink—a surprisingly refreshing combination of activated charcoal, cold-pressed lemon juice, ginger, and dandelion root, all housed in a sleek, striped bottle—has been dominating the most stylish and healthy Instagram feeds, with everyone from models to fitfluencers posting alluring, perfectly lit, impeccably art-directed shots. It’s blown up so quickly, in fact, that within just a few months the brand expanded into Australia and the UK, and is now about to release its brand new Skin + Hair tonic. (We told you drinkable beauty products would be big in 2016.) Oh, and did we mention it’s only available to order via text message?
“We’re trying to cover all of the functional areas in our customers’ lives,” says 32-year-old CEO and founder Zak Normandin, who previously created kids’ snack line Little Duck Organics and food brand development agency Redwood. “We launched Dirty Lemon on the premise that there are so many great ingredients that have been used by naturopaths for hundreds of years now… and if we could take those ingredients and blend them with a marketing approach that’s more in line with what modern consumers are looking for, that there would be a pretty clear value, especially for Millenials.”
To uphold the exclusivity factor, it’s only available to order via text in $65 packs of six—you won’t ever see Dirty Lemon in a store—and all orders are shipped overnight for free (because we all know that the iPhone generation wants things fast).
Judging by Raw Detox’s high reorder rate—most customers buy about one case per month, according to Normandin—this strategy is working. For one thing, the formula itself fulfills a near-universal need; the tasty blend is designed to help gently reset the body after one too many slices of pizza or glasses of rosé. (Naturally, Sunday nights and Monday mornings tend to be the biggest sales days.)
The tasty blend is designed to help gently reset the body after one too many slices of pizza or glasses of rosé
And then there’s that super-stylish bottle—the one that’s launched countless double-taps, regrams, and, in turn, orders. “Everything we’ve done has revolved around social media, from a design standpoint and even a product [development] standpoint,” explains Normandin. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at what people ‘like’—when a photo is aspirational, what makes it aspirational? We’re focusing on simplicity, because we really want this product to compliment the trendsetters that are carrying it with them… [it can’t be] obtrusive or obnoxious.”
Don’t think for a second, however, that the products are all style and no substance. Normandin works with a team of nutritionists and naturopaths to develop each formula, making sure it’s scientifically sound and gets results. The new Skin + Hair blend, for example, uses pharmaceutical-grade marine collagen because, as Normandin explains, “there’s really great data showing that once collagen goes into your bloodstream, it has powerful effects on the appearance of skin, specifically as it relates to elasticity and wrinkle reduction.”
Its other ingredients include red clover (a potent phytoestrogen that benefits hair and skin), silica-packed horsetail, and anti-inflammatory cayenne pepper. Later this summer, two more blends will be released—a magnesium-packed sleep formula, which will help extend the fragile REM cycle, and a “light, refreshing” energy drink whose ingredients are still under wraps.
Dirty Lemon’s supersonic growth is impressive, sure, but it’s definitely not surprising when you consider how many of today’s healthy phenomena—from Kayla Itsines to smoothie bowls and Frank beauty—were born online. “The health and wellness community has grown so fast online—there are so many people that really want to improve the quality of their lives,” he says.
“All we’re doing is providing the product that fits really well with what people are already looking to do.” And he’s helping us feel good while we’re doing it—in more ways than one.
Dirty Lemon isn’t the only one turning the idea of detoxing on its head—read why this NYC yoga teacher is all about retoxing…