CEO Series

How La Juiceria Squeezed Into The "Unhealthy" M'sian F&B Space—Now 15 Outlets & Counting

La Juiceria is now one of the well-known homegrown cold-pressed juices in Malaysia. 4 years in, the brand has come far from its roots operating out of Anabelle’s small apartment kitchen.

“Starting a brand was a scary experience. I wasn’t sure if Malaysians were ready for cold-pressed juices or if they were ready to fork out more than RM12 for a bottle of juice.
– Anabelle Co-Martinent, Founder of La Juiceria

An expat who hails from Manila, Anabelle isn’t just some do-gooder with a thirst for juices.

She came to Malaysia with experience working in Helwett-Packard, Nokia, and most recently a Product Marketing Manager in Microsoft Malaysia.

In a bid to start the La Juiceria brand, Anabelle used her savings from her previous I.T. stints to start the company. Of course, having a supportive husband and faithful business partners helped too.

The theme of starting out La Juiceria? Uncertainty. 

La Juiceria’s brand now includes cafés / Image Credit: La Juiceria

There are the ups and downs of business, sure. But there’s no handbook on how to start a juice company. Meanwhile, as an expat, she neither spoke Malay or Cantonese, nor was she familiar with the guidelines of starting a company.

To top things off, initial feedback from Malaysians weren’t promising.

“Will people buy, meh? So expensive.”

“I would rather make my own juice at home.”

“Green juice? Takut!!!”

She wasn’t sure if Malaysians would understand the “healthy” concept, or even the brand. All she knew was that she had to try.

“To be honest, we started with a small capital since we were a small online company delivering juices to consumers,” said Anabelle.

Today paints a different picture. La Juiceria just turned 4 in November, with 15 outlets, an expanded menu, and several stockists. The company has launched its cold-pressed juice factory with a halal cert, no longer operating out of Anabelle’s kitchen.

They also have two expanded brands under their name: La Juiceria Superfoods and Super Saigon.

Image Credit: La Juiceria

“Looking back at our journey, it still leaves me breathless just thinking of what we have gone through.”

While she wasn’t sure if Malaysians would take to it, she believed in the product itself because:

Anabelle saw the results of juicing first-hand when her family did it themselves.

Anabelle started La Juiceria 1 month after giving birth.

Growing up in Manila (and generally being Asian), Anabelle loves our typical fares: the noodles, rice, meat, and more meat. She was constantly constipated, but ignored it as a “common” problem for dessert-loving women.

“Having worked for Microsoft at their KLCC office for 4 years, I can barely count the number of times I had salad or healthy food during my stint there. My diet is a common one. We love our unhealthy stuff. And it’s high time to change that,” said Anabelle.

Anabelle began reading about plant-based diets and juicing when she was pregnant with her second child. This led to her and her family’s shift towards intense plant-based food. They do still consume meat because, “I don’t want to become strict nor anal about these things.”

Since then, Anabelle recovered faster from her C-section at 37-years-old. Her husband lost 8kg based on their diet alone, and gained the energy to start running marathons.

Anabelle’s family supporting her husband at a marathon / Image Credit: La Juiceria

“It’s hard to swallow a plateful of raw vegetables. But if it’s juiced together in a bottle, 100% just juice, no preservatives or additives, and the insoluble fiber removed, wouldn’t that be an easier way of consuming the much need 5-7 servings of vegetables and fruits in a day?”

Today, they’re still working on expanding the brand. 

In fact, just earlier this year, you may have seen La Juiceria launching Super Saigon—a healthy brand of Vietnamese food that serves halal Australian beef, now in TTDI and Hartamas.

Image Credit: TripAdvisor

As for their previously established brands, sometime this month, La Juiceria will be opening a Superfoods Signature in Nadi Bangsar, followed with another café in Subang.

They’ve also begun supplying juices to supermarkets like BIG and Village Grocer. This is on top of other franchises like Watsons, certain cafés, and fitness-related businesses.

Meanwhile, they’re still staying true to their roots of doing online sales on their website.

These days though, every Tom, Dick and Harry has entered the Malaysian market with their own brand of healthy juice. 

When asked about the competition, Anabelle informed us that “there will be pioneers and there will be followers in every industry”.

“The important thing is to continue to invest on your brand—to grow something that competitors cannot just easily copy.”

“We have invested our time and effort behind the brand La Juiceria in so many ways, from being the only halal-certified cold-pressed juice company, to hiring nutritionists to give better experiences for our customers, to investing in key locations and partnerships.”

“People can try to copy a product overnight. But they cannot build a brand and a following just overnight.”

But is juicing actually healthy though?

Image Credit: LookP

There have been articles circulating that debunk the trend of juicing as a healthy diet option. To this, Anabelle stated that, “People have debated about what’s healthy for decades.”

She gave eggs as an example of a food item that is constantly debated among food science circles.

“Juicing is a broad topic. There are so many kinds of juicing methods and juice types that it is unfair to lump it together into one category and call it unhealthy,” said Anabelle.

“Some people drink juices as a supplement to their already-healthy lifestyle. Others do it for a ‘reboot’ of their system, to flush their bodies with natural food, which they have deprived for years due to the access to ‘fast’ food & processed food.”

“Some people going through certain ailments or sicknesses may need certain types of juices to help the body recover faster. I don’t think anyone can argue with the unending list of benefits of vegetables, herbs, and other natural food sources.”

She came to Malaysia despite naysayers from her home country telling her that it wouldn’t work out here, and launched a brand in Malaysia even when locals told her it wasn’t going to work.

“For me to have quit my comfortable corporate life to diving into entrepreneurship in a foreign country was a decision to live life and have faith,” said Anabelle.

In Anabelle’s own entrepreneurship journey, pressing on despite the odds has been her route to success, and her brand seems to now be a mainstay presence in Malaysia.

Feature Image Credit: La Juiceria

 

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