Purearth: Angelina Riccio and Tenna Anette
Champions of gut health, the founders of Purearth look back on the journey that catapulted the brand to a 61% annual growth rate powered by the goodness of its organic kefir water and cleanse shots
Health and wellbeing is a top-of-mind concern in today’s consumers and Purearth has managed to deliver on the promise of taste, flavour and health benefits with a range of organic cold-pressed juices, dairy-free kefir cleanses, and since earlier this year, CBD shots.
In making such a good-for-you offering, the London-based drink brand has played a part in positive lifestyle changes of thousands of consumers in the UK who have found in its range of detox and cleanse programmes nourish and support to their digestive health. Suffice to say the Purearth’s follower base on Instagram tops 13.1k and counting.
The duo confesses to having always been very health-conscious individuals, and that Purearth was born naturally. “We wanted to build an ethical business, one with a purpose. Helping people live healthier lives in the most organic way has always been the very essence of everything we do.”
Riccio and Anette share the passion for health and wellbeing and the can-do entrepreneurial spirit. Riccio’s first work, for example, was for a character and commercial modelling agency, which led her to launch Reality Check Management, a modelling agency that still operates, now in the hands of Mark Harris.
“Building that business from the ground up and running it for eight years has been an extremely rewarding journey. It tested and strengthened my entrepreneurial mindset and business acumen, and taught me the practical skills that are crucial for running a successful business,” says Riccio.
“Helping people live healthier lives in the most organic way has always been the very essence of everything we do”Purearth
Anette’s background in arts, entertainment and media management took a turn when landing in London from New York in 2000. She worked as events manager at London’s Michelin starred Sketch and 5 Cavendish Square for nine years, until she decided to take a closer look at nutrition. Anette enrolled at the Tree of Life Centre to study with Dr Gabriel Cousens, a well-known physician doctor, a homoeopath and spiritual writer who practices holistic medicine.
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“I was extremely fascinated and keen to learn more about detoxification, yoga, herbalism, ayurvedic and Chinese practices, which prompted me to study superfoods, herbs and medicinal mushrooms with David Wolfe, a raw foods guru,” says Anette. “Dr Gabriel Cousens and David Wolfe were pioneers of this exciting new movement and most certainly a great inspiration to me,” she adds.
A personal experience direct to consumers
Creating Purearth, Riccio and Anette say, was the remedy for their busy lifestyles. “By incorporating cold-pressed juices, water kefir and raw fresh organic foods into our diet, we noticed a huge shift in natural energy levels, as well as better mental clarity and strength.”
They shared their experience with friends and family, and the word spread very fast about what Riccio and Anette were doing. Feedback of life-changing results from their customers has since been fuelling the growth of the business.
From the outset in 2012, Purearth was focused on making cold-pressed juices and soon expanded to the brand’s flagship fermented dairy-free water kefir. The company started with a direct-to-consumer (DTC) business model, and the uptake of the product led the business to grow. Purearth added more flavours to the range of cold-pressed juices, and the founders took the brand’s dairy-free water kefir to retail outlets.
Psycle London, a premium boutique fitness brand with studios across London, was the first company to believe in the brand. “Swiftly after we were approached by Gail’s bakery, which propelled us from a home business to a commercial one,” comment Riccio and Anette.
Purearth today offers a range of juice-based cleanse programmes and four flavours of dairy-free kefir water in two sizes. The range also includes four superfood wellness shots plus a CBD range that Purearth launched earlier this year, and a range of vegan broths. All products are certified organic by the Soil Association.
Some of the key ingredients across the product lines are lemon, spirulina, ginger, hibiscus, passion fruit, turmeric, chaga mushroom, and cacao. All kefirs include vitamin B2 and B12.
Stepping to a wholesale platform was the natural progression. In 2014 Purearth set up its commercial kitchen in London, and the next year the company signed with wholesalers Marigold, which gave the brand the opportunity to distribute the kefir water range across the UK capital and the Southeast of the country.
“We were soon stocked in premium retailers such as Selfridges and Harrods, as well as outlets such as Whole Foods, Planet Organic, As Nature Intended, Ocado, Abel & Cole and more recently WHSmith,” explains Anette.
Wellness in the backdrop of Covid-19
In eight years, Purearth has consolidated a loyal and strong customer base and close relationships with suppliers and logistics partners; for the company, the Covid-19 crisis has truly meant business as usual. “We are indeed privileged to have had no real issues dealing with demand changes in either our direct or indirect business,” says Anette, who oversees sales, innovation and quality control.
“One positive thing that we believe will come out of the current crisis is the increased awareness and importance of prevention and immunity as opposed to reactive treatment”Tenna Anette, sales, innovation & QC director at Purearth
For Riccio, Purearth’s brand and marketing director, many fast-moving consumer goods businesses have rushed to set up direct to consumer e-commerce propositions during the lockdown period. Purearth, however, which is rooted in the DTC model, has been focused on acquiring new customers, increasing demand from current ones, and “ensuring that we exceed their expectations in all areas to provide the best-in-class shopper experience,” she says.
The Purearth founders also say the chosen logistics partners “have dealt fantastically well” with their increased demand.
Riccio and Anette report sales growth of 61% year on year in this period. Both agree that although the Covid-19 crisis has accelerated the upward trajectory on the company’s DTC front, its retail channel business has also continued to exhibit strong improvements over the last six months.
“One positive thing that we believe will come out of the current crisis is the increased awareness and importance of prevention and immunity as opposed to reactive treatment, and given the role that gut health plays in this, it should have a beneficial impact on the category,” says Anette.
Riccio and Anette expect this year to sell more than half a million bottles. “Different parts of our product range are more popular as we move through the year, with spring/summer being the peak season for kefir and autumn/winter seeing uplifts in our immunity shots,” says Riccio.
Anette points out that the overall demand for all parts of the portfolio continues to rise at pace. “Our CBD shots are proving extremely desirable since the launch earlier this year,” she says.
Quality by design
Anette and Riccio are adamant to sourcing the best quality, organic ingredients. This effort, they know, inevitably leads to making a product with a high-end price tag. The nutritional value, they say, worth it.
The Purearth founders explain that to make a 1-litre bottle of fresh orange juice requires 1,75 kg of fruit, whereas the same amount of oranges can produce up to seven litres of juice from concentrate, utilising 150 ml of concentrate and 850 ml of water per bottle.
“If you compare the nutritional content, the fresh product has almost double the vitamin C level and 25% less sugar than the from concentrate version, however, the fresh product is double the price,” says Anette.
Riccio and Anette have taken up the challenge to make healthier products more accessible to consumers by both educating on the benefits of consumption and giving them access at relevant times.
“In the case of Purearth, the cost of a bottle of our dairy-free water kefir is equivalent to that of a large Starbucks coffee macchiato, something most people would purchase without thinking about the price,” comments Riccio.
Riccio and Anette say a lot of effort has been put into developing Purearth products, working with world-class labs such as Eurofins Scientific for regular testing. They have also worked closely with microbiology experts and their innovation teams at Campden BRI, identifying the probiotic strains in Purearth kefir waters.
“These species were isolated and submitted for DNA sequencing for naming and identification. This is a very complex and expensive testing method, but the results were impressive,” says Anette. “We have five strains identified, a minimum of 10 billion live cultures in 100 ml liquid,” she adds.
“We offer clients supergreens, such as chlorella, spirulina, and E3live, as part of their programmes, all of which were alien ingredients to people when we first started in 2012”Angelina Riccio, brand and marketing director at Purearth
Since its inception, Purearth has been at the forefront of innovation, curating cleanse programmes with cold-pressed green juices, superfood shots, nut milk and medicinal infused Chaga teas.
“We offer clients supergreens, such as chlorella, spirulina, and E3live, as part of their programmes, all of which were alien ingredients to people when we first started in 2012,” says Riccio.
Anette points out that Purearth led the way in terms of fermented drinks as the category began to develop in the UK market, knowing how important gut health was, but unaware just how much this category in itself would develop in such a short period.
“We believe that we have modernised this ancient practice by blending superfoods and juices into our traditionally made kefir waters to make them exciting, delicious, and easy to drink on a daily basis,” she adds.
More products are in the pipeline. Riccio and Anette are working with scientists to undertake further studies to better understand the link between live probiotics kefir and a healthy gut in order to develop new products.
“Right now, we are working on other ways of introducing probiotics into people’s diets, providing the optimal daily intake in a convenient format,” says Riccio.
Funding future growth
Purearth has become a fast-evolving SME and funding for growth is a key part of the company strategy. “Our business plan for the next five years will require a capital injection to achieve the ambitious targets we have set ourselves,” the founders say, noting that a fundraising round is on the horizon in the latter half of this year.
Riccio and Anette say the most important decision for them will be finding the right long-term partners to work alongside the Purearth team as the company scale the business. “We have been lucky enough to have been supported to date by incredibly engaged investors such as Phoenix Ventures and Nexus, and this level of understanding and support will be key in selecting the funding route that is right for us at the next stage of our journey.”
Purearth is already gearing up for the next stage of growth, and the appointment of Paul Gurnell as its general manager is a testament to the move forward. Gurnell served as chief executive of Savse, the cold-pressed smoothies brand, and led a high performing team achieving rapid growth across grocery, convenience and foodservice channels and reaching sales in excess of £10 million.