Can Smart Juice be the Next Chobani?

Image When you buy a bottle of 100% organic juice, let’s say it’s a cranberry, have you ever checked the nutrition label on the bottom? Probably you do not. Next time, be sure to check it.. What are you going to see? Well, probably the juice you are drinking is indeed 100% juice, but it is not pure cranberry juice. It’s sometime 60% apple juice, 20% grape juice and if you are lucky, it might have some cranberry extract in it. So it is a kind of a marketing trick. The label says it is hundred percent juices and that part is true, but it is not hundred percent cranberries, apples, grapes or pomegranates.
Murat Guzel, CEO of Nimeks organic/Natural Food Source Inc, has been in the food and juice business since 2000. He started with importing Juice concentrates from Turkey for US juice makers and then he decided to build his own brand, “Smart Juice”, in 2008. “Smart Juice is 100% pure juice. We never add any additives, preservatives or artificial anything –ever,” Guzel says. Smart Juice is now on sale in over 2500 supermarkets all over the US, upscale supermarkets such as The Fresh Market, Wegmans, Whole Foods, Shop Rite, A&P, Stop&Shop, Big Y, Shaws, Harmons, and Sprouts, Bristol farms. They just started with some division of Kroger, America’s largest supermarket chain of 3600 stores. When told Smart Juice could be a second Turkish-owned brand like Chobani, a yogurt maker worth a billion dollrs, in the US market, Guzel replies, “Maybe we can’t make it that big. There is a long way to go, but we have that potential with other products we have.” There are not many Turkish brands that are known nationwide.
Smart Juice is now selling on shelves for $5.99 (33 fl Oz.); in comparison, the same product from R.W. Knudsen and Lakewood is $9.99. Guzel indicates, “We are selling more organic juice than our competitors but their product lines are very wide and they could put lower price tags on their cheap juices mixed with low cost Juice.”  The price of mixed juices is $4.99 and consumers do not pay attention when they pay less; they do not drink the pure juice. You may see pomegranate in the front picture thinking that you are drinking pomegranate juice; actually you could be drinking apple or grape juice with small amount of pomegranate in the bottle.  He said secret to his low price for premium juices is that they are being vertically integrated organization from growing organic fruits to Bottling in Turkey

Smart Juice has seven different warehouses in the country and they ship directly from warehouses to distributors. Since he partnered and source from Nimeks Tarim of Izmir, They import approximately 700-800 containers of dried foods and fruits, Frozen fruits and Juice concentrates every year from Turkey and this makes them one of the biggest food import company from Turkey.

Beside juice, Guzel gave the candy business a try in 2011. He established another company, Kervan USA in Bethlehem. He partnered with, Kervan Gida, Located in Istanbul is the one of the biggest candy companies in Turkey and they were very eager to open a US market. So Guzel gave them a hand. In their first year, they made 320K, and last year’s revenue was $3 million. He expects to grow with 19 different candies and with 150 different gummy candy in bulk to $9 million by the end of this year. They already have their own brand, too: Yumy Yumy
Guzel’s companies, Nimeks Organic/Natural Food Source and Kervan USA LLC, are based in Bethlehem, PA. He has lived and worked in the same town since he moved to the US in 1986.

Before he entered the retail business with his own brand, Guzel garnered a great deal of experience in the wholesale of food and fruit and he continues to gather more. Guzel started to import figs, apricots, and nuts from Turkey early in 2000’s and in his first six months of business he made $3 million revenue and he resigned from the high tech job. Then he worked with his partner, Erol Cebeci for two years. Then his partner moved to Turkey for 9 years.  The company grew significantly over the years. Now the yearly revenue is approximately $40 million. He says there is a potential to reach $250 million if he has no problem with supply in Turkey.

He shows each of his shipment invoices, orders, receivables and underlines, “I hope what I am doing with my company will be a good sample for other Turkish entrepreneurs. They should focus on more American consumers rather than the ethnic market. The ethnic market is very tight and you can’t grow after a certain point.”   He says that we have many professional Turks in working here and he emphasis that Turkish people to should either seek management positions in bigger corporation or they should be establishing their own companies with branding in mind. Also he states that honesty and win/win principal will bring long term success and that got him credibility to deal with very large US Companies like, Kellogg, Smuckers, Hains, Sunweet growers, Frozsun and Sunopta. Some of them are multibillion-dollar companies.

Graduated from Hacettepe University in Ankara as an electronic engineer, He taught at Hacettepe University for two years.  Guzel was one of eight students who came to the US with government scholarships. After his a master and PhD study at Washington state Lehigh University, he also taught courses in engineering. His professional life continued with a wireless communication company in different positions from engineer manager to general manager. Finally he started up his own business adventure in 2000.    
Guzel describes himself as not only a businessman but also a social activist. He believes in balancing the life with work, social activism, and family. He is the first Turkish-American to be a Democratic Party delegate to nominate a candidate for President of United States. The presidential campaign selected its 153 district level delegates and 14 alternates. Guzel was one of 301 delegates who went to the 2012 Democratic National Convention.

The Bethlehem region has four Democratic Party delegates and Guzel is one of them. “I wasn’t expecting to be a delegate and I did not even ask or work for it. After having good relations with local elected officials and Senator Bob Casey, He was recommended to be one of four delegates to the Democratic Party and it happened.” Guzel was officially a Democratic Party delegate in June 2012. He voted and signed under name of president Obama as nomination along other delegation in Charlotte, and then President Obama gave an acceptance speech as the Democratic Party’s candidate for the US Presidency. After the election, he received an diner invitation to los Angles and then to invitation to the White House, too. When asked whether he is considering a political career, he smiles and replies, “I haven’t had any plans up to know and this happened. Together, I don’t have plan but we don’t know what future will brings. But we have obligation to our culture, our society and the country we live in”
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07