An Interview with Founder, Kara Rosen
Our founder Kara came to London from New York in 2012. At that time, London was poorly served with juices and healthy drinks – and Kara craved the kind of delicious, nutritious juices she’d fought off illness and fatigue with in the States. She started making her own, then giving them to friends – and then supplying the likes of Liberty and Harvey Nichols. From there, we’ve grown and grown but our core stays the same, we’re on a mission to inspire heathy change. Find out more about our fearless leader with some telling questions:
What inspired you to set up your company and setting your company up, what goal did you have in mind for Plenish?
My previous career was in magazine publishing at Condé Nast in New York City and involved travelling a lot.
One winter, I became unwell with a case of strep throat and my doctor prescribed antibiotics which helped me get better, but ultimately I kept getting recurring infections. I ended up going to see a nutritional therapist who took a look at my diet and made the observation that I was eating out of convenience, and eating a lot of beige foods. She took me off all the medication I was on and told me to do a three-day juice cleanse. It wasn’t about losing weight, it was about flooding my system with an abundance of fresh, organic, green vegetables, which transformed my health.
I was spending a lot of time in LA, where amazing juice delivery places were opening up. But when I moved to the UK in 2009, there was nothing happening in that space, so I started Plenish. It started with making juices for myself and friends, new mums who had also just had babies, and they started bringing them home to their friends and husbands and so on through word of mouth.
What would you say has been your biggest marketing success?
When we first started, we were selling exclusively direct to consumers. We had no marketing budget, so the biggest success then was taking risks and putting ourselves in places where we thought potential customers would understand what we were doing.
We did some really fun guerilla marketing outside of London Fashion Week, for example. I found this really quirky group of musicians who created musical instruments out of peppers and courgettes, and we started playing hit songs and handing out samples of juices. Fashion editors in the print magazine world who had been travelling to the other fashion capitals and knew these types of products were excited to see them in London and started writing about them. That really helped put us on the map with a much wider, more influential audience.
What has been the biggest mistake you made?
There have been so many and some of them seem small now, but were really big at the time. I’ve always said to the team, that if you’re not making mistakes then you’re not trying hard enough, so failure is a really important part of having a high-growth business. I think the biggest mistake would be not to embrace celebrating those mistakes and realising they’re actually just as important as the things that work.
Tell me about your professional history?
At university, I studied business and marketing and worked as a buyer at Bloomingdales in New York. I had always really loved magazines, I had devoured them growing up. I read them cover to cover and tore pages out of beautiful photographs that I loved. Throughout my summers, I interned in magazines but the pay was dismal when I graduated, so I ended up taking a job as a buyer instead.
Every day I was there, I wondered what my life would have been like had I actually taken the job in magazines. A year into being a buyer, I decided it was time to cut my losses – I didn’t have a family, I didn’t have a mortgage, so I went and worked in magazines again as a full-time job and worked my way up through Condé Nast for over a decade on the publishing side, in marketing. I worked on titles such as the New Yorker, Wired, the Vogue group and House & Garden – some really iconic titles across really different industries from design, fashion, tech and literature. It was a really exciting time at a really exciting business, and I worked there until I started Plenish.
What do you think makes Plenish unique?
We’re a brand that is of the utmost integrity. What I set out to achieve was to improve health, both personally and for the planet. We’re one of the very few brands where integrity is one of the values written on the wall. We hold ourselves to a very high standard.
I always say one of the hardest jobs at Plenish is being in product development because we are always organic and we always try to use the most sustainable ingredients possible. It has to taste great, it can’t have any additives or sugars that aren’t naturally occurring. We don’t use oils, we don’t use any stabilisers and it’s not easy to make those types of products, particularly at scale.
When we do have a breakthrough on product development, we have true differentiation in the market. Our milks, for example, have three times as many nuts as the leading brand. We have three natural ingredients that are almonds, water and a dash of salt. Where the competitors probably have six or seven ingredients in there – stabilisers, gum, thickeners. For us, it’s all about the ingredients – how each tastes and how sustainably we can source it. There are really very few brands in the category who can say the same thing.
What are the benefits of a juice cleanse?
Going back to how I started on cleaning, it’s about flooding your system with an abundance of incredible nutrients. I challenge anyone to sit down and eat a kilo of organic greens in one sitting, but you can drink it really easily. On a cleanse, you’re abstaining from eating solid foods, but it’s also about the other thing that you’re not putting into your body (coffee, sugar, alcohol, and stimulants) and getting lots of hydration. You’re having six juices, including a milk, per day, so you feel buzzy. You’re giving your digestive system a break from breaking down all the high fat, high sugar, high salt foods that we tend to love and eat in this nation. It allows your body to reset and allows your tastebuds to reset too. On a cleanse, you sleep better, your digestive system isn’t working so hard – you feel cleaner, lighter and brighter. When you get back post-cleanse, it’s a bit easier to appreciate some natural foods better. An apple tastes a little bit extra sweet, you probably don’t need as much salt on your food, you may not have that second coffee and you may choose not to have wine with dinner because you feel like you’ve just done your body a really great service.
Why are juice cleanses so popular over summer?
Fasting has been around since B.C. – religiously and spiritually, the human race has always used fasting. Animals do it too: when they don’t feel well, they’ll stop eating. There’s a certain naturalness to it that we’ve all been doing for thousands of years. I think cleansing becomes a much easier way to do that because we’re not just hanging out in our loincloths – we are going to work, working out, looking after kids, working one job, two jobs… We’re all very busy, and cleansing is really convenient. You get your products, they’re all numbered and it’s really easy to navigate. You don’t have to cook, you don’t have to clean, you don’t have to think about what you’re eating for a few days. It’s also a little bit of a mental holiday. If you’re anything like me and stress about what you’re going to eat for the next meal, it’s a really easy, convenient way to feel good and do good for your body.
What are your most popular products and why?
Traditionally the hardcore green juices work really well. Our products are not inexpensive – they’re made with lots of organic produce so if you’re investing in a cold-pressed juice, you want to feel like it’s really giving you a lift, and the green juices do that. Within ten minutes of drinking it, you can feel the effects. The other product that does really well is the chocolate milk called Savour, which is a delicious milkshake that’s also good for you. It contains only cashews, dates and some cacao, and tastes great, is really filling and has a natural source of protein.
Our shots are really intense. We’ve taken what consumers love about our juices, which is that they make them feel really great, and created these little fireball intense versions. Our ginger shots and our turmeric shots are intensity personified. You have one and it’s like having a really strong coffee, but without any caffeine. Ginger in particular has got lots of anecdotal health benefits that I think people are quite familiar with, same with turmeric. Again, you feel like you’re doing something really good for your body when you’re having it.
What are the benefits of the 5:2 programme? Do you get the full benefits of a detox?
5:2 is our answer to intermittent fasting. It can be used two days a week, but there are also other creative ways people have been doing their own version of intermittent fasting. Really 5:2, or any sort of intermittent fasting, is about calorie control on certain days of the week. With the Plenish program, five days a week you eat a normal, healthy diet and two days a week you consume juices. For a woman, you might have 500 or 600 calories as your target on your fasting day. Rather than faffing around and going on My Fitnesspal or looking up calories contents of how to keep yourself sustained throughout the day, we’ve come up with a really easy solution where you get a series of juices that add up to that calorie target.
How are juice shots absorbed in the body? When would you recommend taking one?
Most people have them as a pick-me-up either late morning or in the late afternoon,, when you’d be reaching for a coffee or tea. Juice is more of a meal supplement or a nutrient supplement. A shot is like a little fireball of energy or, if you feel a sore throat coming on, it’s something you would take almost like a hardcore supplement. I have one every day, around 11 – it keeps me fired up before lunch and if I feel low energy in the afternoon, I’ll have another one then.