by Jonathan Eisenthal
For the many Americans who are trying to get fit, running sounds like a great way to get in shape. But running after kids, running errands, and running the laundry machine can be exhausting to many parents and adults—leaving them sapped of the time and energy for good nutrition and true exercise.
It was out of this new parent exhaustion that Renee Peters first discovered her passion for juicing.
“Our children are very close in age, and I am a smaller person. So, to get all the nutrients I needed at that time was challenging,” says Peters. “I found that the juicing lifestyle helped me to get more concentrated nutrition. It was also something that was fun to do, and I could provide it for my children as well.”
Peters and her husband, Tim, realized that there was a market of other people who wanted the nutritional benefits of juicing—without the work of doing it themselves and with the promise of good taste. Out of this idea came Zula Juice.
Getting the Taste Right
Renee’s first green juice recipe, “Green Drench,” contains electrolytes, and vitamins A,K and C, drawn from ingredients including celery, Romaine lettuce, chard and kale.
“I am all about the greens,” says Renee. “I could drink green juice all day, but it’s actually a little more complicated to get it right.”
Renee explains that a lot of people will try juicing and they will give up, because they put in too much kale or too much ginger, and the taste isn’t what they want. “When I tasted my green drench that has celery in it, I thought, ‘This is it!’”
Zula Juice launched its website in October 2013, and began offering the Twin Cities public eight varieties of raw, organic, cold-pressed juices. Bottled in 16-oz, single-serving containers, Zula Juice’s offerings include ‘Beet Retreat,’ ‘Carrot Plunge’ and ‘Cashew Dream,’ among others.
Freshness may be the single most key element that sets their product apart. “All of the juices that are ordered on our web site are juiced-to-order,” explains Renee. “We juice it, bottle it, and immediately deliver it to our customer.
“We are passionate about the true juicing lifestyle. Getting that juice fresh. Anyone that juices for themselves knows that the benefits of the juice are highest when the juice is fresh.”
Zula offers delivery across the state of Minnesota and free delivery within 15 miles of its commercial kitchen, located in St. Paul, Minnesota (zip code 55420).
With juice delivered that fresh, and meant to be drunk within three days, Zula does not have to process its product with high-pressure processing. Store-bought cold-press juices, subjected to high-pressure processing, are considered fresh for three weeks. Peters believes that nutrients are lost by the end of that extended period on the shelf.
Getting it right
As the Peters have developed their business, they have relied on the rich resources that Minnesota offers to help startups to help ensure they launch their business well. The Peters work with a scientist at the University of Minnesota to advise them on the balance of ingredients to maximize nutrient content.
They went to AURI for nutritional analysis and labeling, which can be a tricky and expensive process for juice products when done by a private lab. In addition, the timing of the analysis is important, because nutrients are highest right when the juice has been pressed.
AURI’s Charan Wadhawan, senior scientist of food and nutrition, conducted analysis on Zula’s eight juices in order to find the nutritional information for the ingredients and ensure an accurate analysis and nutritional label.
“Anything you store will experience loss of some nutrients,” says Wadhawan. “Vitamin C is very sensitive to light and heat, and the level of this nutrient can go down in storage. Fresh juice stored for three days still has most of the original nutrients.”
“There is a taste difference when you have fresh juice,” she explains. “There can be a lot more flavor.”
“AURI also got us involved with the Minnesota Cup new venture competition. We have our application in, and we are very excited to be taking part,” says Renee, referring to the annual competition offered through the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management. Minnesota Cup matches startup businesses with business veterans who can mentor them, specifically with the process of developing a business plan.
Knowing their customers is a key part of the Peters’ business strategy. They have four new juices in development, including a low-pear, low-apple, very low-sugar variety. It’s a juice that’s not for the novice, so the Peters go to people who have “been in the juicing lifestyle” and ask them to sample it and give feedback.
Zula Juice’s top selling offering is its ‘cleanse pack,’ for either a one-day or three-day juice cleanse.
“The idea is to give the digestive system a break and flood it will all the phytonutrients and vitamins that are naturally occurring in the juice,” says Peters. “You drink six juices all day, and nothing else other than water. There can also be a weight loss benefit… it can be a jumpstart into a healthier lifestyle.
“After cleansing, you have a real appreciation for simple foods. The apple you never seem to grab suddenly sounds really good. And the highly-salted, highly-processed foods just aren’t of interest,” Peters explains.
AURI and Zula Juice
Idea to reality: Offer fresh, nutrient-rich juices in a fast, convenient way.
AURI’s role: Nutritional analysis and labeling
Outcomes: Zula Juice is gaining loyal customers, especially for its cleanse product. Check out www.zulajuice.com.