You may not have heard of Eager Drinks, but you’ve probably tried it.
The juice company has been a staple of pubs, bars and venues across the UK for 15 years and its drinks are used in Young’s pubs, Alchemist bars and across the Stonegate chain, which owns Slug and Lettuce.
Its main selling point is that its juices can be stored outside the fridge, freeing up more space in pub fridges. As a result, it aims to be more sustainable in the process.
Now Eager is looking to sell his juice directly to customers.
Ed Rigg launched Eager Drinks in 2007 to try to free up space in pub fridges.
They may have liked it in the pub, but will consumers be willing to order it at home?
We spoke to founder Ed Rigg about why he thinks the juice industry is a “farce” and how he wants to change it.
The juice industry is a ‘farce’
Rigg was working in the film industry when he moved into a flat above a pub. After a few shifts downing pints, he came up with the idea for a drinks brand, after noticing that cocktail juice was taking up valuable space that could be used for bottled beer and wine.
In 2007 Eager was born.
‘Let’s say you run a bar and you receive a delivery once a week and you know you need 50 liters of orange juice. If you get that cold juice delivery, you should put it in the refrigerator at once,” he says.
You are buying in bulk. If you had to chill that much, well… fridge space is at a premium.’
Rigg set out to find a way to store juice outside of the refrigerator, a major challenge considering the walls of cold juice found in supermarkets.
What Rigg discovered, he says, was that if juices were packaged differently, most wouldn’t need refrigeration behind the bar.
This could help reduce energy waste, as bars and pubs could reduce the number of refrigerators they use.
“The farce is that the juice is pressed in Brazil; when it is squeezed, it is pasteurized,” he says. “At that point it’s not fresh anymore.”
‘That juice will then be shipped across the ocean. They’ll put it in tanker trucks and bring it here. It is then pasteurized again before going into the box.
Saying that juice needs to be refrigerated after being in the supply chain for six months to a year… is completely false.
‘So to say that it needs to be refrigerated after it has been in the supply chain for six months to a year… is totally false. It’s not cool, it’s just cold. It is a service suggestion, not a necessity.
‘Other big brands in this country sell the same products in Europe in environmental packaging format. “It is an unnecessary waste.”
Rigg says the discrepancy between the UK and Europe comes down to how we like our milk.
In Europe, people tend to opt for non-fresh or long-life milk, so juices are placed on the same shelf instead of stored in the refrigerator.
In Britain, where we are more likely to take fresh milk from the refrigerator, it made sense to place the juices nearby.
But do brands also increase the price of their juice by refrigerating it and claiming its freshness?
Eager Drinks recently launched a subscription for consumers to purchase their juice
Rigg says he doesn’t think there’s a “conspiracy,” but “obviously, when juice concentrate is half the price, if you can convince people [refrigerated juice] is fresher, you will convince people to pay the higher price.
‘I’m not saying everyone in the industry is bad and I’m good. It’s not so black and white.
Improved packaging is a hit among bars
Rigg found a solution to excess cooling in the form of additional packaging. Eager drinks have an extra layer of cardboard which creates an airtight barrier and means they can be stored outside the fridge.
“There is a fraction more packaging waste due to the layer of aluminum foil, but it is nothing compared to refrigerating the juice at 1 or 2 degrees in open refrigerators,” he says.
But once the seal is broken, it becomes like any other juice and must be refrigerated—the exact problem Rigg said he wanted to solve. How is Eager different?
‘We are useful because [venues] “They can buy good quality juice at room temperature, put it in the basement and take it out when they need it,” Rigg says.
‘They can deliver it to you with other drinks. They don’t need to rely on the chef to order it from food distributors, which would arrive in refrigerated trucks.
“A lot of people said the chef had forgotten to order it. “It’s just not on their radar.”
Eager has become a hit with bars, venues and hotels, and now produces between 10 and 12 million liters of juice a year. Its current turnover exceeds £10 million.
Which doesn’t stop bars from opting for cheaper concentrated juices that can be stored at room temperature.
In a period of higher prices across the board, bars may have to cut costs and opt for a less new option.
‘Juice should be a pleasure’
Another challenge facing Rigg and Eager is changing consumer habits and a growing understanding of the health risks of sugary juices.
Ultra-processed foods and sugar have become a hot topic in recent years, and research shows that consuming too much juice, which is high in sugar and low in fiber, can cause a huge spike in blood sugar levels. blood.
Unlike bars and venues where juice might be considered a treat as part of a cocktail recipe, Rigg feels more aware of juice’s questionable health benefits.
I think we’re in a world where, if you’re not honest, consumers can smell you.
‘When I started selling fruit juices, like everyone else, we thought it was a healthy drink and, subsequently, there were different opinions.
“I think it’s quite sugary and if you want to get vitamin C or some of the other good things found in fruit juice, there’s probably a way to get it without the same sugar content.”
“It’s strange for a fruit juice company to say that, but I think we’re in a world where, if you’re not honest, consumers can smell you.” People have all this information at their fingertips.”
This makes Eager’s entry into the direct-to-consumer market difficult, but it’s a challenge Rigg seems to enjoy.
He is realistic about the challenges and has chosen to present Eager as a “gift” rather than mention any weak health benefits.
‘Obviously we want to sell as much fruit juice as possible. If you tell people that it’s the healthiest thing in the world, that you should drink a whole carton a day, and people decide that that’s the narrative, then maybe you can sell more. You’d be pretty fake but you could do it. “We think juice is a pleasure.”
Framing Eager as a gift also makes the higher price tag easier to swallow for parents, whom it considers its biggest customers.
Eager currently sells six 1-litre cartons of orange juice for £15.90, around £2.65 a carton, similar to Tropicana. At Sainsbury’s, a carton equivalent to 1 liter of orange juice, not from concentrate, costs £1.50.
It will be an uphill battle, but customers may be eager to buy the premium juice they’ve been unknowingly drinking for years.
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