Q&A   //   March 13, 2023

Joe & The Juice Global Brand Director Kasper Garnell on how the chain is positioning itself as a ‘lifestyle’ brand

Danish juice and coffee bar chain Joe & The Juice entered the U.S. in 2016. Today, the service restaurant has 58 stores across 9 states in the U.S. including New York, California and Florida.

Established in Copenhagen in 2002, the chain — which offers fresh juices, shakes, coffee and sandwiches — has 338 stores globally mainly across Europe and the U.S. The company entered the Middle East region last year in partnership with local franchises. The company is testing the franchise mode at scale in the Middle East region with partners like Lavoya in Dubai and FB Hospitality in Qatar to name a few. The company is expected to explore similar partnerships to expand to new countries such as China and Mexico. 

This week, Joe & The Juice will introduce its first in-store collaboration with hot sauce brand Jah Mama Sauce, founded by Panama-born and Brooklyn-raised Jahphet Negast Landis in May 2021. The limited-edition Jah Mama Sauce add-on option is available at Joe & The Juice locations in New York, Miami and Los Angeles beginning March 13 for 50 cents.

In an interview with Modern Retail, Joe & The Juice Global Brand Director Kasper Garnell talks about the brand’s U.S. journey, understanding the U.S. customer and future growth frontiers for the company. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What inspired this in-store partnership with Jah Mama Sauce?
I had through friends heard about this hot sauce — a couple of my friends had invested in it. One of them invited me to breakfast late last year. And he said, ‘you gotta try this hot sauce.’ He showed me the hot sauce and I put it on the breakfast bagel and it just tasted amazing. The salesman that he is, he was like — ‘you got to have this in your store.’

When I get approached for collaborations, which I do quite a lot, I’m always a little bit hesitant, but obviously I reached out to Jah [founder of Jah Mama Sauce] because [my friend] David Grutman is normally a good judge of character. I really hit it off with Jah and his team. I really liked the whole story of the hot sauce and how it came about, it’s [Jah’s] mama’s secret recipe from Panama. And when his mom passed away, he wanted his mom’s spirit to live on through the brand.

I was looking for some way to tie this into our own brand story. And then coincidentally, our tuna sandwiches [Spicy Tuna and Tunacado] blew up on social media especially on TikTok in September last year. And people can always put hot sauce on the sandwiches, but people can hack the system and instead of just ordering the spicy tuna sandwich, which comes with hot sauce, they order the tunacado and then just add hot sauce.

So, there was a lot of online conversation going on among the community about this and that resulted in these tuna sandwich sales increase by more than 150% in the U.S. in the fourth quarter. And then it was like I actually kind of have the perfect story to tie this new hot sauce brand into.

What are you hoping to achieve from this partnership?
We’ve produced 5,000 bottles initially, it’s going to be an add-on to the sandwiches.

For us, it was more of a brand play, to be honest. It’s a fun collaboration for us to have something relevant to talk about. For me, it’s more fun to create the content that comes out of it — that’s truly the reason why I did it. I actually didn’t do this to make more money. If it happens, it happens. And that’s always nice. This is our first major partnership and I wanted to try this out in the U.S., which is the market where we receive the most interest for the brand currently.

I want to test it out in the three key markets — L.A., Miami and New York — in phase one and go national in all our 58 stores across nine states eventually.

Can you talk about Joe & The Juice’s overall growth strategy more broadly, and how this partnership fits into it?
From a branding perspective we want to transition more and more into a lifestyle brand. I would love to branch out of just being known for making juices and sandwiches and coffee. If that means that through our app, we can create a community with other brands to conduct yoga sessions, or join a running club or something more and tap into that healthy lifestyle.

I love doing these collaborations where there’s more to the story than just the product — we did with Jah Mama. So, from a purely brand and marketing perspective, we want to develop the brand to be more lifestyle focused.

Hopefully, we will also get into developing merchandise, that’s a very big untapped market that we haven’t really done a lot with. I would love to develop that more. We tapped a little bit into e-commerce and retail during Covid, because the stores were closed. So, we developed a little web shop where we sold coffee capsules and stuff. And we saw a lot of traction on that. While as a company, we are not currently ready to scale that up and allocate resources to really make a go for it. But that’s something I have in the pipeline over the next 18 to 24 months.

We keep getting approached almost monthly by Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s and other companies that would like to have us create some retail products that we can sell in their stores. And because we still don’t bottle our juices, it hasn’t really been possible for us. So, that’s something we obviously would like to tap into eventually as well. And, globally, we would like to double the amount of stores we have in the next five years.

Can you talk about plans for further international expansion?
In the short term, I would say most of our expansion will be in Europe. I would say our expansion will be 65% to 70% in Europe, and the rest in the U.S. that’s kind of what we’re focusing on. I haven’t taken into the equation our franchise stores in the Middle East, because that’s run by our franchise partners. It depends on whatever their resources and expansion abilities are. But in the U.S. and in Europe, especially in the U.S., we will probably stick to the local cities that were in already present in.

What have you learned about the U.S. consumer in these last seven years?
They are definitely more demanding than consumers in other markets, but not in a bad way. They know exactly how they want things and they want to customize things to their liking. It’s something we obviously learned quickly. And it’s something that also changed our workflow a little bit.

In Scandinavia, for example, when people go out they order things on the menu. But in the U.S. it is very much — ‘I want that thing, but I want them without strawberries, and I want peanut butter, and I want kale.’ They’re very specific about all that. And it made us really change the business model a little bit, because we needed to have the ability to handle that.