Naz Notarfonzo, owner of AllJuiceCo., a maker of natural ethnic juices, spoke with Canadian Grocer about the juice category and how to merchandise it better.
Canadian Grocer: How did you get started in the business?
Naz Notarfonzo: I first started manufacturing and selling fresh bottled juices featuring only the most popular mainstream flavours. We packed them in plastic bottles using spring water bottled at the source. However, because I was mainly working with small retailers and fresh product was very tricky, I decided to focus on shelf-stable juices. I soon found that the margins on these mainstream flavours were exceptionally small given fierce competition.
Why did you see a need in the juice category for ethnic consumers?
While servicing our accounts it became clear that the market for ‘ethnic’ flavours was expanding and also underserviced. Furthermore, with shelf-stable products, selling time was not critical so we could approach small retailers who experienced little product turnover. Soon after packing flavours that included Mango, Mango & Carrot, Mango & Papaya, our Mango juices outsold our Orange juice and Apple Juice flavours combined; a clear message that I was on the right track.
With confidence created from the knowledge that a market existed for our international flavours AllJuiceCo. expanded into the 2L/1.75L ‘fresh pack’ cartons and we approached larger grocery stores equipped to handle refrigerated products.
How difficult was it getting the product into larger chains?
Once we overcame the listing fees just to get on the shelf, I turned to Highland Farms who was a great innovator in the introduction of ethnic foods and they agreed to retail our juices.
Our largest growth came from the Asian stores such as T&T, which were just beginning to carve a spot in the market place. They were the only ones that could survive next to the discount banners such as No Frills or Price Chopper. My first Asian store was Big Land Farms that grew to five stores before going out of business. They were soon replaced by the likes of Sunny, Oceans, Yuan Ming, Oriental [and] Al Premium. These are our main customers to whom I owe my growth. Today, The Alphonso Mango line and Aljuice products including Guava can also be found at FreshCo.
How does the juice category vary between ethnic consumers vs. mainstream?
When I started, ‘mainstream’ was dominated by orange, apple, grapefruit juice and fruit punch. The ethnic consumer preferred lower acid, thicker beverages. Although they may taste sweeter, the caloric value is marginally higher.
What are some of the innovations driving your sales?
Juice blends that excite the palate include Mango & Carrot, Mango & Pomegranate, Mango & Peach. We will be introducing a new blend of Guava to extend the AlJuice line later on this year. Agility of the company is critical to reacting with everchanging tastes and demands in Canada.
How could mainstream grocers better merchandise the juice aisle?
A major complaint we hear all the time surrounds grocers positioning 1.75L cartons on the top shelf. Most of us are too short to reach that first container and when the shelf is not organized we may as well be reaching for the moon. All juices should be kept together in the same section with mainstream, equivalents. The ethnic customer should not be identified as ethnic. I find the word outdated. Let mainstream products compete directly with their new competitors in the same section.