A handful of Charlottesville-area entrepreneurs and experienced professionals are pouring their energies and confidence into Lumi Juice, a startup beverage company.
Lumi will produce organic, high-pressure-processed juices targeted at consumers on the go who want a healthful and tasty option.
“You have breweries and all sorts of craft food, and [Charlottesville] is kind of this untapped incubator of food and beverage, and it’s really cool what’s happening,” said company founder Hillary Lewis.
Later this month, Lewis said they expect production to get underway. The company will operate from recently refurbished space on Broadway Street in the Woolen Mills neighborhood.
Although Coke and Pepsi “kind of have the juice market wrapped up,” there’s still plenty of room and substantial consumer interest in new products, said Casey Lichtendahl, another Lumi partner and a professor at the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia.
Lichtendahl has firsthand experience in the industry as a cofounder of Tradewinds Beverage. Nestle acquired the company in 2011.
Company partner Raul Chao, also a Darden professor, said the market, which has supported the rise of national brands such as Odwalla and Naked Juice, has substantial untapped potential.
“It’s pretty high growth potential because … we’re in a position where we can take advantage of different attributes and different markets for our product,” Chao said.
Lumi will offer eight varieties of juice that include ingredients such as beets, cucumbers, oranges, carrots and Fuji apples. All of the juices will be produced from fresh fruits and vegetables in-house and prepared for market through high-pressure processing.
Unlike pasteurization, where foods are heated to destroy pathogens, in high-pressure processing, packaged foods are treated with very high pressure transmitted by water to improve safety and shelf stability.
Lumi’s high-pressure processing machine costs about $700,000. The company is leasing it with an option to buy.
“We’re the only privately held company that has this processing technology, so we’ve invested a lot and we’re taking a big leap of faith with it,” Chao said.
Charlottesville-based Relay Foods will be the product’s first retailer. Lumi also plans to get its juices on the shelf at Whole Foods Market.
“We’ve gone from zero to 60 to say the least,” said Chao. “On Aug. 1, we signed a lease for a facility here and we’re up and running in less than two months. We’re not waiting for every detail to be perfectly planned. You learn as you’re going.”
Caleb Hersch, Lumi’s facility manager, said everyone involved is excited about the possibilities.
“I think it’s exciting — this is a really good market for local foods in general, whether it’s something that’s grown here or something that’s produced here,” he said.