Jungle Juice Bar slays dragons as it eyes global success
‘Freshness, wellbeing and social responsibility’ are the three pillars of Finnish smoothie bar firm Jungle Juice Bar. Now the company has made the first steps to take its refreshing approach abroad.
‘Travel broadens your horizons’ the saying goes. But for Jungle Juice Bar founder Noora Fagerström it ignited a completely new career running Finland’s largest chain of juice and smoothie bars.
“We used to travel a lot with my husband and run into all kinds of juice places abroad and wondered why these haven’t landed in Finland,” Fagerström recalls. “I wanted to bring here the idea that you can add protein and various superfoods into drinks.”
Inexperience in the industry did not slow Fagerström down. On the contrary, she enrolled to study entrepreneurship, created the business concept together with husband Petteri Fagerström and opened the very first Jungle Juice Bar in early 2011.
It has been a fast ride ever since. Today the company has 15 locations across Finland, employs 110 people and opened its first international juice bar in Spain at the start of the year.
Into the Dragons’ Den
The concept behind Jungle Juice Bar is simple, but effective: bring healthy fast food to busy locations. Customers are offered drinks with fresh ingredients, no added sugar and a wide menu with wild sounding names such as Green Hornet and Berry Baboon.
While fresh juices have become a diet staple for health conscious consumers, the market was very different when Jungle Juice Bar launched:
“At the start we were warned that no one drinks this kind of stuff,” Fagerstöm laughs. “It took time and effort to build our brand, but now people recognise us very well. The awareness of healthy foods has increased and people are much more interested in it than five years ago.”
With hindsight Jungle Juice Bar has had good timing, but the company’s success has also been driven by plenty of sweat and ‘can do’ attitude. In 2012, the company’s rapid expansion led to increasing financial strain and its founders started to look for investors to support their growth plans.
Fagerström even participated in the Finnish version of Dragons’ Den to pitch the business idea to investors on national TV. It was a success. Jungle Juice Bar raised 60 000 euros and gained two new investors to join its three existing backers.
While the funding has been crucial for the company, Fagerström values the expertise an investor can bring to the table high above a large wallet:
“When you run a company yourself, and have never done it before, it is a long road to take,” Fagerström says. “Some lessons you learn the hard way. But when the right investors have come into the picture, there has been a very professional touch. You make fewer missteps.”
Invest in the brand
Fagerström is not one for sitting still. As Jungle Juice Bar has grown, so has Fagerström’s family and her third child was born in April. This has seen the whole family return to Helsinki after moving to Malaga to open the company’s first juice bar outside Finland. Madrid is next up on the expansion list, but Fagerstrom is staying put this time.
International expansion was on the cards for Jungle Juice Bar from day one, hence the English name and brand. Fagerström’s advice to anyone starting their own business is to invest time and effort into creating their brand:
“A concept, brand and visual image are all very important,” Fagerström stresses. “Many people just take a name and a logo without really thinking about it, but this can become a stumbling block later. It is hard to create a brand afterwards.”
Another key lesson for Fagerström has been the crucial role locations play in the retail industry. Jungle Juice Bar learnt this the expensive way when it had to close down its shop at the Helsinki airport.
“We were eager to go to any good location and thought people at a busy airport would want to take healthy drinks with them,” Fagerström explains. “But we were on the wrong side of the security check [where liquids aren’t allowed]. It is worth it to really focus and spend time on researching the right locations.”
Jungle Juice Bar’s next focus is Europe. Spain is just the first step for the company which plans to introduce its toucan logo to the other side of the Atlantic.
“In the future I see us in many countries across Europe and even in the US. I don’t know the exact timeframe for this to happen, but this is the goal we aim to achieve,” Fagerström concludes.
Text: Eeva Haaramo
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