Lianna Sugarman still remembers the first concoction she ever whipped up in her Vitamix: “A big bunch of kale, spinach, bananas, and cranberries,” she recalls. “It was delicious—and totally life-changing. It was the first time in my life that I was drinking something insanely healthy, and that I actually really enjoyed. I became a complete ‘green smoothie’ mad scientist.”
Three years after her Vitamix epiphany, Sugarman, a born and bred New Yorker with an impractically long mane of blonde hair and a crystal the size of a kiwi hanging around her neck, launched LuliTonix, a fast-growing raw beverage company with a line of blended greens and elixirs. And the downtown entrepreneur's line of chia blends was just scooped up by Whole Foods.
South of Houston Street, LuliTonix commands a cult following of people who grab the blended greens (named Kick!, Fly!, Chill!, Glow!, and Fresh!) at Mulberry & Vine, Lyons Den Yoga, Bari, and Bikram LES—and soon at several Hamptons fitness outposts. For now, the stuff is an in-the-know find, but once people crack open their first LuliTonix, it tends to become a repeat experience.
Not surprisingly, the fitness community has been an early adopter of LuliTonix's whole foods interpretation of green juice. LuliTonix (the name is a nod to Sugarman's childhood nickname) are blended, not pressed and extracted the way cold-pressed juices are. So the drinks are packed with fiber, which both fills you up and regulates blood sugar. Fresh!, her blend that contains avocado, spinach, basil, kale, lettuce, ginger, lemon, fig, purified water (all organic), has just 7 grams of fat and 4 grams of sugar. And with its thick satisfying texture, it can act as a light lunch.
Essentially, Sugarman pioneered a new beverage category—premium, raw, organic blended greens. Whereas green juice is the extracted liquid from greens, herbs, and some fruit, Sugarman is putting similar ingredients in a blender. "My blends are the evolution of the premium of the raw green juice world," says Sugarman, who exclusively uses certified organic ingredients. It’s the intersection of whole foods and green juice, an unexplored middle ground.
The blends, and the brand itself, is born of a passion for delivering an experience that's equal parts healthy and delicious. Sugarman isn't afraid to work with moody ingredients like basil, or sweeten with Medjool dates instead of cheaper (and controversial) agave. With the quality so high and the fruit content so low, she'd never call her drinks smoothies.
The indie beverage company may not be a downtown secret for long. Expect to see LuliTonix Chia line in Whole Foods (in Tribeca and Brooklyn to start with) later this summer, as well as a new elixir line that will have shoppers tapping out the last drop.
As for her greater vision, Sugarman imagines "LuliTonix annexes of raw-green-blended bliss all over the country, as well as wider distribution." She's betting heavy that the future of green beverages is going to be fiber-filled. And judging by downtown Manhattan's response, LuliTonix is on to something. —Alexia Brue
For more information on LuliTonix, visit www.lulitonix.com
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