Coconut, guava, and tamarind are top ranking healthy fruit juices we can find in most local stores—but sugarcane?
Sugarcane juice is growing in popularity, as avid entrepreneurs—like Ganiu Ladejobi—rush to be at the front of the billion-dollar healthy beverage market. “Sweet juice from farm fresh sugarcane stalks” is how Ladejobi describes the juices his company, Sugarcane Island, makes and sells.Peterson Lochard (left), Mackenzie Bien-Aime (middle), Ganiu Ladejobi (right); Images: Jerry Jean
After a trip to Nigeria, which is where he is originally from, Ladejobi missed the taste of cold pressed sugarcane juice free from additives, preservatives, or added sugar. After looking to no avail, Ladejobi claims to have become frustrated in his search. So, he decided to make it himself for his family and friends. He not only quenched his thirst, but also vitalized his business acumen by spotting this opportunity.
While living in New York, Ladejobi saw the city as solid ground for launching his company, with its diverse mix of African and the Caribbean immigrants that would already be familiar with his product. Armed with only $5000 in savings and a small cane pressing machine, Ladejobi wasted no time.
Ladejobi, Founder and CEO of Sugarcane Juice Island Juice Co., shared with Black Enterprise what steps he took to make his own “sweet” dream a reality.
Black Enterprise: Is sugarcane the next coconut water? What are your thoughts on this?
Ladejobi: Yes. It is a healthy beverage, just like coconut water, but sugarcane juice actually has more nutrients than coconut water.
There has also been scientific research done on the possible health benefits of sugarcane juice. Ayurvedic medicine has long used sugarcane juice as a natural remedy for ailments.We have shared some of this research on our website.
Sugarcane juice is also very versatile and can be used as a true plant based sweetener for several things, which is not something that you can achieve with coconut water. So, in terms of functionality, nutrients, and popularity worldwide, yes, we definitely believe sugarcane juice will be the next popular beverage here in the United States.
BE: How has being from Africa and the Caribbean influenced your work?
Ladejobi: Well, my background is Nigerian, but my two partners, Peterson Lochard and Mackenzie Bien-Aime, have Caribbean backgrounds—Haiti, to be exact. Culturally, our values are the same, and I feel that is common among most immigrant families. Work hard, focus on your goals, and stay humble; these are values we all share, and it is as a result of our backgrounds.
BE: How did you decide on your current business model?
Ladejobi: We looked at who our target consumers were and where they shopped for similar health food products. Based on that research, we were able to deduce that our focus should be health and natural food stores. We started doing distribution to health food supermarkets in New York City, and we are steadily growing.
We also added an e-commerce aspect to our business very early, due to people in different states that have inquired about purchasing products after finding us via social media.
Lastly, we added distribution to bars and restaurants. Sugarcane juice is also a great mixer for cocktails and other mixed drinks, so it was a no-brainer for us to add distribution to bars and restaurants, as well.
BE: How are you scaling? Will there be sugarcane infused supplements, soaps, and so forth?
Ladejobi: As far as scaling our brand, yes, we do intend to produce additional products from sugarcane.
We consider ourselves as a consumer products company that is focused on producing healthy and sustainable products from sugarcane. We also just started producing 100% pure cane syrup, which is an aromatic syrup that is great for many uses—from sweetening smoothies, oatmeal, coffee, or tea to using it in cocktails or drizzling it on fresh fruit, pancakes, and waffles. We also have plans to produce a line of herbal teas, all natural sugarcane body soaps, sugarcane infused energy bars, and a few other things.
BE: What is next for Sugarcane Island Juice Co.?
Ladejobi: Our immediate goal is to widen retail distribution. We are also working on increasing distribution to specialty cocktail bars, restaurants, and quick service restaurants.
In addition, people have reached out from all over the country and from overseas to ask when our products will be available near them. So, right now, we are raising capital to increase production, local distribution, and possibly international distribution, as well as introducing new products.
BE: Where can people buy your juice?
Ladejobi: At the moment, our juices are only available locally in New York City, but people in other states can order online via our website, where there is also a full list of where to find us [in-store].
BE: Anything else you’d like to say?
Ladejobi: Thank you to everyone who has supported Sugarcane Island in any way. We would not be able to do this without the support of friends, family, and consumers that love our products. We look forward to many more years of producing healthy and sustainable products from sugarcane that put the consumers’ health first.
Maryann Reid is the Digital Managing Editor of Black Enterprise magazine and author published by St. Martins Press. Her work has been featured in Glamour, USA Today, Newsweek, CNN.com, and more. Follow her on Twitter @realalphanista.