M’sian fruit juice brand is shutting down & seeking buyers

Barbie Espinol

Watching Smooshie Juice’s video from the Alliance Bank BizSmart Challenge 2013, it felt like the pure juice brand was here to stay. The co-founders, Lee Hai Lin and Low Wan Chiun, were ambitious, bold, and bright. At the end of the video, Lin even said, “the sky’s the limit.”

Nine years down the road, it seems that the duo has met the sky. Co-founder Lin told Vulcan Post the team has decided to shut down Smooshie Juice.

That isn’t to say that Smooshie Juice hasn’t been fruitful during the past decade. Far from it.

For one, Smooshie Juice had close ties with Boost Juice Bars for a long time, supplying to their kiosks for years. The juice was also stocked in supermarkets such as Ben’s and Family Mart. The company was even approached by cinemas and airlines to supply juices as well.

Smooshie Juice was invited to the launch of Facebook Malaysia / Image Credit: Smooshie Juice

“At our peak, we supplied some 45 cafes/restaurants around KL and the Klang Valley, and even in Penang,” Lin shared. “We’ve also had a lot of really cool gigs, supplying juices to launches and large events, such as the launch of Facebook Malaysia.”

So, given its bountiful track record, how did it all fall apart?

First, let’s rewind

Lin and Wan Chiun are childhood friends who studied in Australia before moving back to Malaysia. They noticed a gap in the market for pure fruit juices and consequently quit their full-time jobs, pouring their efforts into Smooshie Juice.  

“Both of us had absolutely no experience in F&B or running a business, so it was nuts!” Lin shared. “We really didn’t know what to expect, but we believed that Malaysia needed good quality, pure juices as there are so many delicious local fruits available here.”

After months of R&D, they finally opened a retail outlet in Berjaya Time Square in April 2011. In the beginning, people were not used to the juice. Some would complain that they weren’t sweet enough and add packets of sugar. However, the breakthrough finally came when Smooshie Juice decided to supply to cafes instead.

“We tested out the juices at some cafes that we had contacts with, notably The Red Beanbag and Artisan Roast Café,” Lin explained. “The juices were a hit, and we realised that café customers were our target market, so we shut down our retail outlet and focused on distribution instead.”

But it wasn’t enough

It wasn’t just one big thing that made Lin and Wan Chiun decide on letting Smooshie Juice. It was more of a combination of various factors.

First of all, the increase in the cost of goods, especially raw ingredients, made a heavy impact on Smooshie Juice, which relies on 100% natural ingredients.

Co-founder Lin claimed that before Smooshie Juice, the juices being sold in supermarkets were high in sugar or made of concentrates with added preservatives / Image Credit: Smooshie Juice

The business has had to raise the price of its juices a few times over the years due to cost inflation, and that led to the loss of supply partners.

Although the team could have added water or concentrates to the juice to reduce cost, they refused to compromise on the quality of the juices.

“We felt that going down that route would defeat the purpose of our existence in the first place!” Lin said.

But another big reason why Lin and Wan Chiun are calling it a day with Smooshie is due to their personal commitments. Both founders recently became first-time mums. Thus, they’ve had less time to focus on the business.

Still, it’s an incredible feat to have lasted this long. On top of slim and efficient operations, the innovativeness of the team is to be respected too.

Smooshie has also diversified from just juices to products such as yoghurt, kefir, and cut fruit. It has also collaborated with other brands to create new products. During the MCO, the company also used internet marketing to sell the juices as cafes were closed and there were no events.

It’s time to move on

The breaking point came when the team was contacted by their customised bottle supplier, who told them there would be a 30% increase in bottle prices.

Co-founders Lee Lin Hai and Low Wan Chiun / Image Credit: Smooshie Juice

This paired with the increased costs of fruits and vegetables made the company realise a huge change would be needed to keep Smooshie running. It was a change that neither Lin nor Wan Chiun could handle given their new roles as mums.

Lin and Wan Chiun are thus keeping an eye out for anyone who’s willing and able to continue Smooshie’s dream to make healthy juices accessible to Malaysians. Lin believes there’s plenty of potential for Smooshie Juice given its expertise, personnel, systems, contacts, equipment, and list of existing clients.

“All that’s needed is some funding and people with the same drive, passion, and insight that we had 10 years ago when we were younger,” she finished.

For now, the two founders are focused on their own families, waiting for someone to breathe new life into Smooshie Juice.  

  • Learn more about Smooshie Juice here, and if you’re interested in taking over the business, you can contact them here.
  • Read more articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Smooshie Juice

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