The trendy juice bars that blanket much of Southern California are as unsustainable as juice fasting itself, says Lisa Odenweller, the proud owner of the rapidly growing organic “superfood” cafe Beaming.
Although juice was a good start to providing consumers with healthier options on the fly, the next logical step was a superfood cafe in which health conscious diners could get more bang for their buck, she said.
The concept behind Beaming is part hipster, part yogi fast food, an amalgam of trendy health food items in intelligently designed packages: kale salads loaded with goji berries and nut dressing, sprouted nut milks sweetened with dates, and bite size protein bars loaded with 25 superfoods. And, yes, juice. Lots of it.
While most juiceries load up on fruits to curb the bite of greens and other potent veggies, Beaming’s beverages are formulated with three pounds of organic, locally sourced vegetables and little to no fruit. The juices are cold pressed, made and bottled daily, and available in a cooler by the checkout. Of course, quality and convenience come at a price $10 for 16 ounces, to be exact.
But if the success of San Diego’s blockbuster beverage company Suja Juice is any indicator, consumers are more than willing to pay. Today’s customers want to be assured that the produce used to make their juice is organic, local and in season. They want nuts to be raw and sprouted, and granola to be gluten free and they’ll pay top dollar to get it.
Odenweller recognized an opportunity to meet the demand for high quality foods in a quick and convenient way. Juice bars got part of it right, but something was missing.
Juicing Doesn’t Cut It
The realization came during the height of the juicing trend, Odenweller said. It was 2011, and Breville juicers were flying off the shelves in the aftermath of the popular juice fasting documentary “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.”
“Everyone was doing a juice cleanse,” Odenweller said. “I knew some people were doing it to fit into their skinny jeans, but a lot of people seemed to be searching for an answer to serious health problems. Disease is rampant, obesity is rampant, people want to have a say in their health.”
Odenweller, a former director at numerous Silicon Valley software companies including Oracle and Broadvision, happened to be a longtime health advocate and dabbler in gourmet cooking. She took it upon herself to uncover the truth about juicing and the makings of a healthy diet. She read countless books on health and vitality through food, attended conferences all over the country, and met with influential people in the space.
Her conclusions were that juice fasting was not sustainable, and not always healthy when loaded with fruit sugars. Therefore, the ubiquitous juice bar was riding on popularity rather than merit.
“We’re overwhelmed with information about what to eat and what not to eat,” Odenweller said. “The more I learned, the more I saw that there was a lot of misinformation out there, and I felt an obligation to share what I knew.”
Rather than write a book or start a blog, she chose to start a superfood cafe. A suicide mission, her friends said.
“Not one person told me it was a good idea,” Odenweller said. “In fact, everyone told me not to do it. But healthy food is here to stay. That’s why McDonald’s is not doing well financially, and Whole Foods is booming. That’s why people with low salaries will still choose to spend $8 on a Suja Juice.”
Odenweller was tuned into the health conscious community back in 2011, both professionally and socially. She gathered a focus group consisting of fitness enthusiasts, yoga instructors, friends and family to test her idea a five day “cleanse” package loaded with raw soups, smoothies, salads, elixirs, teas and superfood snacks.
The goal was to appeal to the increasingly health conscious population, offering an intelligently designed menu loaded with convenient, nutrient rich superfoods that were low in sugar and more substantial than juice. Even more appealing, they were prepackaged, delivered to your door ready to eat.
“Instead of filling them with a bunch of fruit juice, I offered a cleanse with food that has fiber, fat and protein,” Odenweller said. “It’s more sustainable and realistic, people can do it long term and it will help them get off the stuff that’s wreaking havoc on their bodies.”
After her small focus group reported positive results, Odenweller started taking orders for her first cleanse package. She had planned to sign up 20 individuals who would pay $495 for five days of food delivered to their door. Instead, nearly 100 signed up.
Borrowing the back kitchen of a cupcake shop, Odenweller labored 18 hours a day trying to deliver on those orders with hardly any infrastructure. She recruited her children and all their friends to label 2,200 bottles, and pack 450 teas.
Seven cleanses, 26 total working days and $255,000 later, Odenweller opened her first storefront in Del Mar in 2012 with lines out the door.
Designed to Scale
In the three years that followed, Odenweller responded to high demand by opening three additional locations in Los Angeles County, and just this month opened her fifth Beaming location on Girard Avenue in La Jolla.
Odenweller said the cafe increased efficiency by opening a central kitchen in Vista, where all the pre packaged salads, entrees, snacks and juices are made fresh daily and delivered to each location in the dead of night.
Unlike many juice bars and local vegan cafes, Beaming was built for scalability. From the start, Odenweller had intentions of creating a national chain.
Odenweller was heavily involved in the founding process, developing recipes, deciding on concepts, branding, strategy, etc. But then she hired Trevor Sacco, an executive with nearly three decades of restaurant development experience, to take over the reins as chief executive officer.
The company has diversified revenues by offering cleanse packages ranging from $85 for a “one day reset” to $1,200 for a 21 day program. They also offer a line of prepackaged superfoods such as goji berries, maca powder and cacao.
Beaming recently entered a marketing partnership with Kris Carr, a wellness activist, cancer survivor and New York Times best selling author of “Crazy, Sexy Diet.” Carr will be promoting Beaming and its cleanse programs, while Beaming will give away Carr’s book as part of its cleanse package.
Odenweller said she intends the company to grow to $100 million in revenues in the next five years, and potentially franchise the brand. One thing she promises is that no matter how big the company gets, Beaming will always control its kitchen.