Meet the founder of Eager Drinks – the small business taking its juices from cocktail bars to the kitchen table

HomeUncategorized

Meet the founder of Eager Drinks – the small business taking its juices from cocktail bars to the kitchen table

You might not have heard of Eager Drinks, but you'll almost certainly have tried it.The juice company has been a staple of pubs, bars and venues acros

Green tea and coffee could help diabetics live longer – report
Trans athlete WINS women’s 1,500m event in Canada
Eczema treatment – the best oil remedy for relieving your dry and itchy skin at home

You might not have heard of Eager Drinks, but you’ll almost certainly have 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 of a fridge, freeing up more space in pub fridges. As a result, it claims to be more sustainable in the process.

Now Eager is looking to sell its juice directly to customers.

Ed Rigg launched Eager Drinks in 2007 to try and free up space in pub fridges

Ed Rigg launched Eager Drinks in 2007 to try and free up space in pub fridges 

They might have developed a taste for it in the pub, but will consumers be willing to order it to their homes?

We speak to founder Ed Rigg about why he thinks the juice industry is a ‘sham’ and how he wants to change it.

Juice industry is a ‘sham’

Rigg was working in the film industry when he moved in to a flat above a pub. After a few shifts pulling pints, he came up with the idea for a drinks brand, after noticing that juice for cocktails was taking up valuable space that could be used for bottled beer and wine. 

In 2007, Eager was born.

‘Let’s say you’re a bar and getting a delivery once a week and you know you need 50 litres of orange juice. If you get that one delivery of chilled juice, it’s got to go in the fridge all at once,’ he says.

‘You’re buying in bulk. If you had to chill that whole bulk, well.. fridge space is at a premium.’

Rigg set out to find a way to find a way to store juice out of the fridge – a significant challenge when you consider the walls of chilled juice found in supermarkets.

What Rigg discovered, he says, was that if juices were packaged differently, most wouldn’t need to be refrigerated behind the bar at all. 

This could help cut energy waste, as bars and pubs could reduce the number of fridges they use. 

‘The sham is that the juice is squeezed in Brazil – it will be pasteurised when it’s squeezed,’ he says. ‘At that point it’s no longer fresh.’ 

‘That juice will then be shipped across the ocean. It’ll be put into tankers and brought here. It’s then pasteurised again before it goes into the carton.

To say juice needs to be refrigerated after being in the supply chain for six months to a year… it’s totally disingenuous

‘To then say it needs to be refrigerated after being in the supply chain for six months to a year… it’s totally disingenuous. It’s not fresh, it’s just cold. It’s a serving suggestion, it’s not a necessity.

‘Other big brands in this country sell the same products in Europe in an ambient pack format. It is needlessly wasteful.’

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 rather than being put in the fridge. 

In Britain, where we’re more likely to pick up fresh milk from the refrigerator, it made sense to place juices nearby. 

But do brands also mark the price of their juice up by refrigerating it and making claims of freshness?

Eager Drinks recently launched a subscription for consumers to buy its juice

Eager Drinks recently launched a subscription for consumers to buy its juice

Rigg says he doesn’t believe there’s a ‘conspiracy,’ but ‘obviously when concentrated juice is half the price, if you can convince people [refrigerated juice] is fresher, you’re going to convince people to pay the higher price.

‘I’m not saying everyone in the industry is a baddie and I’m a goodie. It’s not that black and white.’

Improved packaging a hit with bars

Rigg found a solution to excessive refrigeration in the form of extra packaging. Eager drinks have an extra layer of cardboard which creates an airtight barrier and it means it can be kept outside of the fridge.

‘There’s a fraction more packaging waste because of the layer of foil, but it’s nothing compared to refrigerating juice at 1-2 degrees in open fridges,’ he says.

But once the seal is broken, it becomes like any other juice and has to be refrigerated – the exact problem Rigg said he wanted to fix. How is Eager any different?

‘We are useful because [venues] can buy good quality juice at room temperature, put it downstairs in the cellar and get it out when they need it,’ Rigg says. 

‘They can get it delivered with other drinks. They don’t need to rely on the chef to order it from food distributors which would come in chilled lorries. 

‘You’d get loads of people say 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 makes between 10 and 12 million litres of juice a year. Its current turnover is over £10million. 

What it doesn’t stop is bars opting for cheaper, concentrated juice that can be stored at room temperature. 

In a period of higher prices across the board, bars may well have to cut costs and opt for a less fresh option.

‘Juice should be a treat’

Another challenge facing Rigg and Eager is ever-changing consumption habits and a growing understanding of the health risks of sugary juice.

Ultra-processed food and sugar have become a hot topic in recent years, with research showing that consuming too much juice, which is high in sugar and low in fibre, can lead to a huge spike in blood sugar levels.

Unlike bars and venues where juice might be considered a treat as part of a cocktail recipe, Rigg feels more conscious about the questionable health benefits of juice.

 I think we’re in a world where, if you’re not honest, consumers sniff you out

‘When I started selling fruit juice, like everybody we assumed it was a health drink and subsequently there have been differing opinions. 

‘I think it’s quite sugary and if you want to get vitamin c or some of the other good things that are in fruit juice, there’s probably 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 sniff you out. People have all of this information at their fingertips.’

It makes Eager’s move into the direct-to-consumer market a difficult one, but this is a challenge Rigg seems to relish. 

He is realistic about the challenges and has opted to frame Eager as a ‘treat’ rather than spouting any tenuous health benefits.

‘We obviously want to sell as much fruit juice as possible. If you tell people it’s the most healthy thing in the world, you should drink a whole carton a day, and people decide that that’s the narrative, then you could maybe sell more. You’d be being fairly disingenuous but you could do that. We think juice is a treat.’

Framing Eager as a treat also makes the higher price point easier to stomach for parents, who he considers his main customers.

Currently Eager sells six 1 litre cartons of orange juice for £15.90, around £2.65 a carton, similar to Tropicana. In Sainsbury’s an equivalent 1 litre carton of orange juice, not from concentrate, costs £1.50.

It will be an uphill battle, but customers may well be eager to stump up for the premium juice they’ve been unknowingly drinking for years.

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 0
    DISQUS: