Authored by tym busku

Top masticating juicer brands 2018 for you

Small-scale fruit juice company Exotic Planet got off to a great start back in the 1990s supplying top London retailers and hotels, but then fell victim to big hitters such as Innocent and PJ Smoothies. This May it was relaunched. Belinda Cole finds out how the company bounced back Tal Thomas, founder of Exotic Planet juice drinks, strides into the room brandishing a tray of little bottles and a device that resembles a lightsaber. "This is a reflectometer," he says. "It can measure the sugar content of any liquid." He hands me the silver stick and tells me to hold it to my eye. "That's orange juice. You see it's 11%. Sweeter than you might have thought? The bitterness fools the brain." Thomas is passionate about fruit. Exotic Planet produces seven juice varieties, each perfected after much trial and error. They don't contain purees, concentrates, or frozen fruits, nor are they bulked up with cheaper fruits, but are hand-made purely from fresh fruit, spring water and glucose." It took quite a long time to learn how to balance acidity and sweetness," he says. "Friends tell me if they are good."

Twice a week at 5am Thomas visits Western International Market in Southall, London, to buy the fruit, which is hand-peeled, cut and prepared. "That's how I make sure I get the best," he says. "The fruit doesn't just have to be fresh. It has to be ripe and one of my jobs is to decide when I'm going to use it." When Exotic Planet hit shelves in 1997 its novelty value meant it quickly gained listings in high-end retailers such as Harrods and Harvey Nicks as well as London hotels and restaurant s such as the Oxo Tower, Claridges, The Lanesborough and The Dorchester. But then the company found its smoothies delisted from Harrods and Harvey Nicks because of competition from the likes of Innocent and PJ Smoothies, and operations became reliant on catering packs. "New buyers came on board who didn't identify with it," says Thomas. "The look of the product didn't cut it any more."

Exotic Planet is back. Thanks to a business rethink and investment by a recently retired friend, and Thomas believes the climate is right for the brand to make a more lasting impact. It was relaunched into Harvey Nichols in May following a major packaging overhaul by design expert Wonderland WPA and the company was the exclusive supplier of fruit juices to London Fashion Week. "We showed the new design to Harvey Nichols and it gave us advice," says Thomas. "We thought the photographs needed to look more appealing so we cut the fruit open." "The problem was there was no clear branding," adds Wonderland creative director Nik Bedford. "It was imitating Innocent but not doing it very well. We needed to set ourselves a different playing field. We came back to quality. After all Exotic Planet was being used in top London hotels. So we thought if it's in this environment the packaging should reflect that. It should look like the Gucci of juice." The redesign has reinvigorated the brand, says Thomas, who says first-week sales in Harvey Nichols exceeded both parties' expectations. "Harvey Nichols said we could have in-store promotion for a week. They cleared all the other drinks and gave us a whole chiller. We put out five days of stock and it was all gone. We had to call the staff to come in and make more." In fact, it has been so well received that Exotic Planet is once again making waves in its old stomping grounds as well as new markets. Its drinks are due to reappear on Harrods' shelves in time for Christmas and Thomas hopes to negotiate listings in places such as the Tate and British Museum. Next on his list are smaller chains, and further down the line he'd like to crack the multiples. "I see multiples as a medium-term target--I'm too small at the moment," he says. "I'm looking at chains such as Costa. Airlines are also in my sights. I had a meeting with Gate Gourmet and they are going to talk to BA about having it for first-class passengers. I'm also looking at opportunities with the 2012 Olympics." The company is also expanding its flavour repertoire. It is looking to tap into the trend for superfoods with goji berries and Acai berries from the Amazon, and has also developed a range of smoothies made from fresh fruit, yoghurt, milk and honey, for which it is seeking listings. Hurom-Slow-Masticating-Juicer-juicerzone Thomas also plans to diversify into fruit salads, ice lollies and cocktails, with which he hopes he will increase the business turnover to 500,000 [pounds sterling] in the next 12-18 months and to 1m [pounds sterling] in three years. Clearly, if there's a juicy opportunity, Thomas will try and squeeze the most out of it. Before Tal Thomas founded Exotic Planet he ran a computer security business. Ten years ago, he decided to branch out into a new field. "1 found myself with time on my hands and a spare 60,000 [pounds sterling] and asked if Business Link could recommend someone with a good idea looking for help and cash to get going." Business Link initally put Thomas in touch with a South African fruit juice business seeking a UK partner but they didn't share the same aspirations. Shortly afterwards, however, he got in touch with Barry Johnson, then production manager at Orchard House Foods, which supplies MC&S and some other multiples with juice. Johnson agreed to help him. "Within six months he taught me virtually everything there is to know about fruit," says Thomas. Exotic Planet was founded in 1997 when Thomas formed an agreement with the now defunct Chiswick Foods, which had spare space at its Acton factory. Production started at one day a week and quickly grew to three as Thomas secured deals to supply executive lounges at Heathrow and Virgin Trains as well as catering-size packs for cocktails at the Harrods bar. In 2004 the company moved to a bigger factory in Acton Business Centre in Park Royal.

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