There is a new juice bar in town. It’s really more a plant-based café with salads, soups, and baked goods also offered. It’s impossible to miss with its lemon-yellow signage, screaming graphics, and the name goodsugar. Sugar has gotten such a bad rap, that even fruit, which we used to think was good for us, has become off limits. How could there possibly be such a thing as good sugar?
goodsugar founder Marcus Antebi is on a mission, and it’s a loud mission, to change that perception. Walk in and you’ll see. But the mission is much bigger than just sugar. Antebi also happens to be the founder of Juice Press, and goodsugar is the next stage in the evolution of the juice bar and Antebi himself.
The mission statement reads “to create a vibrant and sustainable society that embodies our values… a world where citizens embrace diversity and express their individuality through vibrant colors… building a better world together.” Lofty goals for a juice bar, but seemingly easy for Antebi who pours this ethos into every glass of juice he sells, as you will experience in our conversation below.
Tell me about your new evolution goodsugar
goodsugar is part of my lifelong dream of becoming more aware, becoming more mature, developing my character, being compassionate, controlling anxiety, achieving my goals – the stuff we’re all working on.
This is clearly much more than a new juice bar for you.
goodsugar is my 12-step recovery. I’m being of service as I’m told to be in my recovery. I’ve got to make a living. I’ve got to be of service. If you hang out with me here you’ll see I connect with at least 2 to 10 people every day who need to hear a happy positive message. They pay me by buying a juice.
The evolution is actually a regression in this case. I started Juice Press when I was 40. I’m 54 now. I’ve been staring at the business for years. There’s been a real evolution for me on many things. The first thing with this, and with Juice Press, is I crafted it to be a place I want to sit in. I spend half my life here. Plus I get lonely. I want to talk to people. Every minute I have an opportunity to meet somebody. I’m not saying this in a disparaging way but Juice Press became a different thing. It went from being a small 300 square foot juice bar on East 1st street to a very large 85-store chain spread across the country.
The success everyone dreams of LOL…
To me the one-on-one relationship between owner, manager, and staff doesn’t seem to form in a corporate culture. Also with certain products, like juice, it doesn’t scale well. The quality dissipates as you're racing against the clock, as you’re trying to scale back and cut expenses. We don’t have that problem in a single unit. I can make the best quality juice here again. We got rid of retail refrigerators and replaced them with ice chests. It even feels fresher and looks fresher and tastes fresher. And we added more food.I have to say the juice really does taste fresher. It’s delicious! There is such a tasty vibe in here too.
I wanted to create a culture. I wanted people to feel that when people in New York are doing their thing — whether they go to SLT or yoga or New York Pilates or wherever — that this is part of that ritual. Keeping people fueled and feeling happy has such a positive impact on their chemistry. The goal is to preserve that and not dilute it to have certain economic goals met.
That begs the question, will there be more goodsugars? Juice Press started with just one store.
In today’s yoga practice I accepted the fact that I chose the path of a warrior when I was very young, in my fantasy and my pretend. When I got older I started skydiving and fought competitive Thai boxing. I fashioned myself into a person who thinks of The Art of War. One thing I know is whatever plan I have for this, it’s not going to go exactly the way I want it. Investors want to know things like, ‘what is it going to be?’.
You have to show them the plan and how it’s going to make money. The first thing is, it’s just fucking this. I might decide to do nothing and say it’s a juice bar and hang up my hat. But destiny always comes right through the front door. People already want to throw money into it. “We’ll scale it, we’ll build one in Mississippi”. Really what I’m attracted to right now is the idea that whatever I do has to be in alignment with that I’m trying to do in my own consciousness and with my own body. If a company came to me and said here’s $180 million were turning this into garbage and poison, I’m just not going to do it.
No not at all. I think Juice Press is a wonderful brand that serves the community and has great potential. I’m just focused now on what this is and making sure I communicate that message.
And what is the marketing message of goodsugar?
One of the great things about marketing, different from our personal relationships where we have to be fluid, is marketing always has to be right. It’s always black and white. Someone sees a stop sign, they should stop. It shouldn’t be, ‘should I slow down?’ When people come in here they say this guy is serving us health. It’s very definitive. I think that everybody in the health business who is still mired in plastic is making a giant statement. It’s a contradiction telling people to only put purity into your body, but by the way dump shit into the ocean. The age of plastic is dead, or at least it should be!
Just to let everyone know, all your juices are served in glass bottles. They are also returnable with credit towards your next purchase.
I should be serving in a glass right now and actually take it back when you leave. But the consumer would reject that because of their behavior patterns. Everybody is rushing to get somewhere so I can only do what I’m doing slowly, gradually asking you to have a juice, have a salad, be grateful. Sit at my table. I’ll give you a plate. It’s not in the front messaging because it’s preachy, it’s intrusive, it’s too disruptive. It’s latent in the background and color and silhouettes and a word or two. I go raw on the website.
Let’s talk about those colors and branding. You walk in here and it’s sensory overload — online too with the pop art meets cartoon graphics. It’s like “Superjuice” to the rescue! It makes health and wellness fun.
Make it crazy. Make it NYC. New York City is the home of the juice bar. Juice is nutrients from plants were supposed to be eating in a very concentrated high potency format. It’s delicious, cold, easy, and you can have a ton of it. At the same time, when you consume it you’re probably not consuming something else that deteriorates your health. One of the main benefits of this lifestyle is you’re avoiding the other lifestyle.
Let’s talk about the name, “goodsugar”, and the hot button topic. For many people, sugar is off limits, regardless of how “good” it is.
People are terrified of fruit. I said I’m just going to make it the name of the company. “Terrified of Fruit” is a terrible name so I called it goodsugar. Fruit and vegetables are good sugar. It’s a carbohydrate. It’s only bad sugar in the context of someone’s overall diet. If someone is eating a terrible diet, a lot of calories, and then they eat a banana, that banana might not be a good thing because it’s getting into their existing calorie pool. I also found if you took words that were memorable you did a better job of branding. Juice Press was easy name to remember. goodsugar is easy to remember. Also in the name, I’ve told you the whole story.