In March, Starbucks Coffee Co. opened its first Evolution Fresh cold-crafted juice store, marking the mega-company’s entrance into an
already popular category. With 17,000 coffee shops in 50 countries,
Starbucks has made a significant mark on the gourmet coffee segment,
and now observers wonder if they will have a similar impact on juicing,
whether on-the-go or at home.
“We feel there is nowhere to go but up with Starbucks getting into it,”
says Dominique Dobson, brand manager for Roland Products Inc., which
distributes the Hurom Slow Juicer.
However, Dobson notes that the juicer category has already been
growing, with segments on shows hosted by Martha Stewart and Oprah
Winfrey, as well as the positive response to the documentary, “Fat, Sick
and Nearly Dead” made by Australian Joe Cross.
The health benefits of juicing were emphasized in Cross’ film, as he lost
weight using a juice-based diet. “We’ve seen a lot of people who will do
juicing at home for the health benefits,” says Dobson, adding it could be
a weeklong juice cleanse or one lasting 90 days.
The benefit of doing it at home, she says, is “if [consumers] are putting
the fruits and vegetables into the juicer themselves, then they know
what they are getting.”
The juicing trend may be ramping up in the United States, says Mark
Fleming, senior product manager at Vita-Mix Corp., but it has already
been popular throughout Europe for a while. “If you go to Germany
today, and attend one of the festivals, you’ll find three to five juice
stands,” he points out, as well as juice bars in high-end stores. “It’s a
very common practice in Europe, and it’s coming here.”
Although not a juicer in the truest sense, the Vita-Mix blender is able to
achieve the same goals by blending whole fruits and vegetables, while
also retaining the fiber.
Like Dobson, Fleming cited the documentary by Cross as one of the
reasons juicing is gaining in popularity in the United States now. Juicing
also fits in with American consumers’ “naughty/nice duality,” he says.
They like to treat themselves and splurge, but they also want to keep
it within safe boundaries; so they will eat a 200-calorie cake pop vs. a
slice of high-fat cheesecake or they will add a fruit smoothie to their Big
Mac order at McDonalds.
Fleming says Vita-Mix serves both sides of this naughty/nice personality
by allowing users to create rich, cream-based soups using the blender,
but also make pure juices that are high in fiber.
Addressing Starbucks’ entrance into the juicing domain, Fleming speculates about whether the company’s owner, Howard Smith, who based
Starbucks on his experience at an Italian coffee shop, was equally influenced by his exposure to juice bars in Europe.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t go back to Europe and recognize that
there was another opportunity that people here were missing,” he says.
The timing for the rollout of Evolution Fresh is right, adds Fleming, as
people swing toward the “nice” side of things. “I think there is an expanding consumer palate,” he says, with people being exposed to more
flavors and looking for ways to get something healthy out of their food.
Evolution Fresh, which opened in Bellevue, Wash., not only offers
handcrafted juices, but also vegetarian and vegan foods along with
wraps, salads and soups. Starbucks uses a process called high-pressure
processing in its juice-making to retain more of the flavors, nutrients
and vitamins from the raw fruits and vegetables.
Mary Rodgers, director of marketing communications for Cuisinart, attributes the popularity of juicing to several factors: the growing vegan and
vegetarian lifestyle, especially among younger consumers; the popularity
of smoothies; and consumer awareness of the positive aspects of juicing.
Cuisinart has offered juicers for about six years, she says, with its latest
entrant being a compact juicer. As the category has grown, Rodgers says
the products themselves have evolved, adding foam control and features
that make them easier to clean.
Starbucks, she says, has obviously successfully built its coffee business,
and expansion into the juice bar segment gives the company “a new
place to play. It’s not a stretch that they can do high-end juice.”
On the retail side, juicer sales have become a strong segment within
kitchen electrics, and the entrance of Starbucks into juicing is seen as a
positive for stores.
Faraday’s Kitchen Store in Lakeway, Texas, outside of Austin, carries
four to five different juicers, ranging from Waring, Cuisinart and Breville
models to Vita-Mix and Hurom.