Start-up juice brand Moju is fast gaining a loyal following among health-conscious consumers. With distribution concentrated on London and the south-east, co-founder Rich Goldsmith asks this month’s panel of business leaders when is the right time to think about large-volume listings
When juice brand Moju launched in Harrods last October, it marked the culmination of two years’ hard work for founders Rich Goldsmith and Charlie Leet-Cook. The pair, who met at university, turned their backs on lucrative City careers to turn a weekend juicing hobby into a line of healthy bottled juices.
“It doesn’t matter if you work in the City or you’re a busy parent, everyone is so hectic these days that they are looking for the convenience of getting fruit and veg in their diet,” says Goldsmith.
“We started off juicing at home and taking our whacky creations into work, then testing them at Charlie’s mum’s book club before selling at farmers’ markets at weekends from a clapped-out VW Golf.
“It was real grassroots stuff but we got so much great feedback that we knew something had to happen in the grocery space. The convenience market is dominated by high-sugar, highly pasteurised, heat-treated juices.
“We saw the opportunity in [producing] quality cold-pressed juice – a niche product that can cost up to £9 in juice bars – and saw a gap in the retail market to take it on to the high street in a much more affordable way.”
Cold pressing, explains Goldsmith, is part of Moju’s USP. “It extracts up to five times more nutrients from fresh veg and fruit than traditional methods. To lengthen the shelf life we use a process called high-pressure processing (HPP), which removes the top-level bacterial pathogens but retains the colour, flavour and nutritional value, rather than pasteurisation which, because it’s heat-treated, takes out the nutritional value and leaves you with a sugary fruit mess.”
Transforming the business from ‘passion project’ to commercial entity required external investment. Goldsmith’s background in investment banking and corporate banking proved invaluable in attracting seed investment from private investors using the government’s Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS).
“We wanted people who could add real strategic value as well as their capital investment. Charlie and I are very relationship- driven. We found people who believe in the product, the business and in us. Our investors have really invested emotionally and financially.”
Production has been outsourced, allowing Goldsmith and Leet-Cook to concentrate on a brand-led strategy.
“Production is a whole different skillset and it’s very capitally intensive to achieve the quality and consistency we wanted. The manufacturer is completely vertically integrated.
“They pull in all the elements: bottling and labelling (under our guidance in terms of the look and feel), cold press and HPP within the same facility, all within a chilled 3°C the whole time to produce a consistent, high-quality product that maintains its integrity throughout its shelf life.”
Moju is competing in a drinks market that Goldsmith says hasn’t captured consumers’ imagination since the launch of Innocent smoothies in 1999.
“I have huge respect for Innocent. It created the market for all of us to operate in and set the standard of how to market and brand a product… We face some competition from other HPP brands but we are differentiated by generally having more vegetables than fruit, which keeps the naturally occurring sugars down. We have 100 per cent fresh ingredients, no purées, pulps or powders and we don’t dilute with water.”
From its office in trendy Bethnal Green, east London, in the months since the summer festival season ended, Moju’s strategy has been to target independent retailers, coffee shops and delicatessens in the London area to achieve a solid customer base for its £2.95 proposition.
“Launching in Harrods has been our biggest achievement to date. Brand association is key. We do particularly well in the speciality coffee and ‘grab and go’ food service sector. As the cold-press market matures our strategy is to push out to other big cities.”
Goldsmith believes Moju needs to gain a genuine foothold among consumers before it can think about making a play for big-volume accounts like supermarkets and he hopes this month’s expert line-up can help with the question of timing.
“If you take that step from start-up too quickly, you miss out the bit in between. You miss out on the customer engagement and that’s so vital when consumers search for a product on supermarket shelves.
“Once you have good penetration in the independents, cafés and delis and your strategy is to go into the multiples in the long term, the question is what is the tipping point between brand equity and volume?”
With the juice market ripe for Moju’s expansion, it is over to this month’s panel…
Expert answers: At what stage in a brand-led strategy should Moju go into major retail chains?
David Milner is CEO, Tyrrells Crisps
Before approaching major retailers there are some foundations you need to have in place. Firstly establish a strong brand identity. This will give you a much better understanding of where your product sits in the market, which is crucial to how you position your brand with major retailers.
Another consideration is your business’ capacity to fulfil orders. It’s important you go at the pace your brand can cope with, therefore choose one retailer to work with initially and build valuable experience with them. This will give you a better understanding of forecasting and fulfilling orders, as well as providing an opportunity to identify the retailer that is most compatible with your brand’s identity.
From my experience creating a premium positioning in the market is key, and the best way to do that is to be clear on how your brand is differentiated from the category in terms of quality, ingredients or provenance. Consumers will often pay more for a premium product, so it’s important as a high-quality brand you don’t undersell yourself to retailers.
Sophi Tranchell is managing director of Divine Chocolate
Getting your products into the multiples is a really exciting stage in building your business and a good opportunity to position your brand. Before you take this bold step, there are a few things you should consider.
Where you are sold has an impact on what consumers think about your brand, so it should be the right fit. You also need to make sure that you have excellent products that will sell enough to deserve their space on the shelf and that you are able to deliver them with consistent quality. It is worth thinking about what they will look like on the shelf compared to your competitors. Shoppers need to be able to identify your product quickly, so the packaging communication must be distinctive and visible in the bright lighting, while also having the right quality cues.
You also really need to understand the category and how it works. What do the other brands and products on the same fixture do? What are the promotional mechanisms and how often are they on promotion? You will be judged on the velocity of your products, so you need to run price promotions to encourage shoppers to try them for the first time and build sales.
Ben Walgate is CEO of Gusbourne wine estate
We face a similar issue ourselves. Our product has been winning awards and critical acclaim – so being able to say, ‘You can’t have any’ reinforces the idea that it’s scarce, it’s special, it’s a well-kept secret.
Partly we can’t [go to mass-market stockists] because we just don’t have the wine. But also we’ve got all these wonderful early adopters and independent merchants, and they’ve done all the hard work – we don’t want to disenfranchise people who have helped us build the brand. Yet there comes a point where there’s a temptation to return those calls from larger retailers.
Selling to a big, well-known customer can be tempting because having lots of smaller customers is more labour intensive. That’s why we’ve looked at replicating what we’ve done in the UK – keeping the wine in exclusive channels – but in more cities around the world. Could a similar approach work for you?
Another way forward is to engage directly with the consumer: invite people to come and see what you do, immerse themselves in your brand and your passion. Sharing your own story with customers is something you lose when it’s being told by a third party. It’s a fantastic way to market your product and create brand loyalty.
Ben Walgate is a member of IoD Kent
Thanks David, Sophi and Ben for your expert answers. It’s great to hear from people who have grown very successful brands that haven’t compromised on brand equity. Consumer engagement is so key for us, as that’s the foundation on which we have built Moju. Your points regarding business infrastructure, and an acute awareness of Moju’s positioning within the category, are so critical to a brand’s success. It is reassuring to hear that in order to establish strong brand loyalty, there is an element of patience as we grow the business and continue to partner with retailers that best reflect Moju’s brand identity. It’s clear from your answers that this a staged process and in some respects can’t be accelerated.
Rich Goldsmith is a member of IoD 99
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