How to build a beverage brand: Suja Life on growing better-for-you brands

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Suja Life on growing better-for-you brands: Suja Organic and ex Pepsi Slice

Related tags Juice Hpp branding How to build a beverage brand

Suja Life’s brands harness the power of organic, non-GMO and plant-based ingredients to provide functional products loaded with nutrients. But how has a good product turned into a great brand? And how does the 2024 acquisition of ex-PepsiCo soda Slice fit into the company’s mission? Maria Stipp, CEO, sits down with BeverageDaily and explains.

Suja’s story begins in 2012, where it set itself apart from the crowd with its use of HPP tech (high pressure processing) to maintain nutrients and taste in its juices.

In 2022 that turned into the company Suja Life: with the brands Suja Juice, Vive Organic and the recent, intriguing addition of ex-PepsiCo soda brand Slice.

Maria Stipp became Suja Life’s CEO in February, coming from a strong beverage background having previously led Sapporo-Stone Brewing Company and Lagunitas Brewing Company. She sits down with BeverageDaily and explains how to build a beverage brand.

Introduce us to Suja Life!

Maria Stipp (1)
Maria Stipp

Suja Life is the leading functional wellness platform and parent company of Suja Organic and Vive Organic.

We’ve learned that consumers want to make healthy choices, but they don’t want to sacrifice taste or convenience.

The products across our brands provide incremental health benefits with clean, natural ingredients, while still delivering on flavor.

No juicers or utensils needed – Suja Organic and Vive Organic products are crafted with daily nutrition in mind so it’s easy to get your essential nutrients.

Your previous roles include CEO of Sapporo-Stone Brewing Company and Lagunitas Brewing Company. What do you consider your biggest achievements with these brewers to be?

At Sapporo-Stone Brewing Company, we doubled the size of the business with a successful acquisition by Japanese beer manufacturer Sapporo.

During my tenure as CEO of Lagunitas Brewing Company, we also became the number #1 IPA in the US.

In both cases, it was a tremendous amount of work and effort produced by a very successful team and work environment.

You took over as CEO of Suja Life in February this year. What were your first priorities?

Suja Life was already in a great place when I joined the company and my focus has been on continuing that growth.

Right now, we’re focused on delivering a strong 2024 and building our plans for the next few years.

With the continued success of the Vive Organic acquisition, Suja Organic Greens Powder and Suja Organic Proteins Drinks launches as well as our acquisition of Slice, we’re continuing to build on our momentum this year and beyond.

Talking about Slice… This is a ex-PepsiCo soda brand that was popular in the 1980s that Suja has just acquired. Seems like an odd choice for a healthy and organic powerhouse! Take us through the rationale for this acquisition.

I believe we can help more consumers drink better options by transforming something they already know and love.

We’re excited about this acquisition because we get to leverage the nostalgia surrounding Slice while also revamping the brand with improved, modern, clean ingredients, bringing a new healthy soda option to our portfolio.

What are your top tips to other beverage brand builders?

As simple as it sounds, always keep the brand first – ahead of all the other priorities.  Never underestimate the knowledge base of the consumer and how educated they are about all the choices.

'I’d advise people to stop saying ‘whatever’ because it signals apathy, which is the worst possible thing'

Any buzzwords you simply can’t stand?

There aren’t any that immediately come to mind. However, I’d advise people to stop saying ‘whatever’ because it signals apathy, which is the worst possible thing.

What makes for a ‘good day at the office’ for you

A good day is hard work and a sense of achievement with an awesome team.

How do you start and end your working day?

My days typically begin by checking in with various teams and catching up on emails.

During our meetings, we take deep dives into multiple reports to understand the business and identify what we need to accomplish to continue growing and moving toward our goals across all sectors of the company.

There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to running a company of this size, and I like to stay close to each team so I have a clear understanding of any holes we need to fill.

I love wrapping up a hard work day with my favorite activity - snuggling with my dog Winston Churchill.

suja inset

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