Misfit Juicery relies on fruits and vegtables people might otherwise pass up, sparing landfills.  (EPA/STR)

This week, a juice company with a social mission looks for ideas on how to market its beverages so consumers can feel good about each purchase. — Dan Beyers

The entrepreneur

Philip Wong and Ann Yang share a passion for food and social justice issues. Wong has been interested in the issue of waste for a long time and encountered the problem first hand when studying abroad as a Georgetown University student in Senegal. He saw the things he didn’t finish for dinner out on the streets the next day. It got him thinking a lot about food waste in the United States.

When Wong returned to Washington, D.C., he joined with long-time friend Ann Yang to do their part to reduce food waste. They fell upon the idea of cold-pressed juice as a way to tackle it. They started with a blender Yang borrowed and four crates of surplus peaches from the Georgetown farmers market, and Misfit Juicery was born.

The pitch

Ann Yang, co-founder, Misfit Juicery

“Misfit is a social enterprise that fights food waste by taking in ‘misfit’ fruits and veggies – that is, fruits and vegetable that are the wrong size, shape, color to be commercially sold – and turns them into cold-pressed juice. We also work with trimmings and top waste, so when companies make fresh-cut products like watermelon cubes and carrot sticks, a lot of waste is generated that we can turn into juice. We are trying to chip away at the 20 billion pounds of fruits and vegetables that go unharvested or unsold every year in the U.S.”

Philip Wong, co-founder

“We source our ‘misfits’ from a variety of farmers, distributors and fresh-cut producers. We work with a lot of local and regional farmers to take their surplus or the things they can’t sell to retailers. We do pay for the produce because this food has real value and we want to make sure we are getting produce that reflects that. We are aligning incentives and we want to support actors at all levels of the food system.”

Yang

“We launched in November 2014 at a salad shop on Georgetown’s campus and then more broadly in D.C. in January 2015. Our five flavors are now available in about 50 locations in this region. In April 2016, we expanded to New York City’s Eataly [an Italian food hall] and other retailers in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey.

“Our biggest challenge is figuring how to tell our social mission on our label so customers can immediately understand that our cold-pressed juice is made with misfits and what that means. We want to show how drinking our juice is literally sipping away at produce waste. But there is so little real estate on our bottle packaging to tell that story. We have played around with different types of copy and messaging, as well as telling the story visually. How do we differentiate our social mission on our bottle almost immediately when you look at it?”

The advice

Sara Herald, associate director of social entrepreneurship at the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business

“Like with all social enterprises no matter the industry, there are no ‘free passes’ just for being a company that also does good. You have to compete with all the other options in the market on things like taste, flavors, health factor, price, etc. When social enterprises are at least as good as all the other options available, millennials in particular tend to choose that product over the competition because of the social mission.

“Misfit Juicery is such a great name, and your tagline, ‘Fight food waste one cold-pressed juice at a time,’ is a great starting point. For the socially conscious consumer, it is important to explain further how your juice does that.

“You do an excellent job of telling your story on your website. It looks like you have a relationship with a talented designer already. You do a good job of establishing your brand and your aesthetic with your logo and the look of your packaging. Your label is eye-catching– it’s just incomplete and doesn’t highlight the misfits inside. I recommend adding a second label on the back or expanding the existing one to showcase the social impact. Find clever and succinct ways to tell the stories of the misfits that make up each bottle of juice. Tell us how many ‘misfit’ apples or carrot sticks we’re drinking that would otherwise have been thrown away, and quantify the impact of that purchase. For example, if someone drank one Misfit juice every day for a year, what’s the weight of the produce they’ve diverted from landfills? How much have they reduced their individual carbon footprint by choosing Misfit? Find tangible, bite-size ways for your consumers to feel good about themselves with each purchase. There might also be room to play up the collective impact of buying your juice so consumers can feel a part of something bigger than consuming one juice.”

The reaction

Yang

“We love the idea of quantifying the amount of food waste that each juice diverts on the bottle. We are excited about the feedback as we work on a rebrand of our packaging.”

Looking for some advice on a new business, or need help fixing an existing one? Capital Business and the experts at the University of Maryland’s Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the Robert H. Smith School of Business are ready to assist. Contact us at capbiznews@washpost.com.