• Uce Juice: a Positive Boost

    by Peter Mounteer

    uce bottleUce Juice LLC is here to take the health beverage market by storm. The tropical drink is the product of some two years of hard work by seven Marina natives. Brothers James Anderson, 29, Mike Anderson, 27, and Jeremy Wright, 23, teamed up with their four cousins Mike Togafau, 31, Pae Auelua, 33, Ray Apineru, 28, and Will Lualemana, 27 and created Uce Juice in 2011.

    The story of Uce Juice is multi-faceted. The dream began with a comment by James Anderson’s workout partner. He was amazed that Anderson could just wake up and start lifting weights without an extra boost beforehand, while he had to drink a cup of coffee to get himself going. His friend joked that “Samoans come out of the womb lifting weights!” They started talking about making an energy drink to give others the same never ending boost Anderson and his brothers enjoy, and the seed for an idea was planted.

    After talking with family members, he began doing independent research on the internet about how to get started. He brought his initial findings to his brothers and they said they were in. The research continued as a group, all of them read Jorge Olson’s “Build Your Beverage Empire” a beginner’s guide with information for people, like Anderson and his family, who are looking to make strides in the beverage industry. More research begat a meeting with Power Brands in Van Nuys, California, a company specifically geared toward building beverage brands. The first thing they learned was that the energy drink market was essentially saturated in the United States. With heavyweights like Red Bull, Monster, Rock Star and the like already dominating the market, an energy drink startup in today’s post-recession economy would have a near impossible-time getting on its feet and onto shelves.

    So Anderson and his team decided to go with something more natural that would appeal to young, health conscious consumers. They experimented with recipes for over a year until finally identifying a formula and flavor profile they liked. Uce Juice in one flavor, “Taro Twist” has been in production at H.A. Ryder & Sons for two months.

    Jeremy Wright, the youngest of the Uce Juice team, insists that he and his brothers are going to strive for something great. But he maintains a humble approach. “Growing up we drank stuff like Gatorade and Minute Maid, its overwhelming just to be on the same shelf.” The young startup has two accounts in Marina, one at the Shell Station at 3030 Del Monte Boulevard and the other at Roger’s Food and Liquor on 215 Reservation Road. Managers from both stores said they’d never seen any product sell as fast as Uce Juice on those premises. “It’s humbling,” Wright says. “It shows us that hard work pays off and that we gotta keep moving.”

    The product contains juice from Pineapple, Mango, Apple, Noni-Berry and Tropical Banana. Also included is Taro, a root vegetable grown in semi tropical climates. According to statements on the company website, supplementing the synthetic caffeine used in conventional energy drinks for the naturally occurring caffeine sourced from green coffee provides a boost without the crash that occurs several hours later. “People tell me it makes them feel like they have a taste of the islands,” said Wright.

    Anderson, his brothers and his cousins grew up in a three bedroom house in Marina. His grandparents were immigrants from Samoa and arrived on the shores of America with little money. The residence they presided over was home to three generations of the family, with twenty people and times were tough. “We grew up around a lot of confusion and anger,” said Wright. The dark side of drug use and life in the streets were subtle yet constant elements in the upbringing of Wright and his six brothers. Under that roof, promise after promise was made and broken. Wright recalls a plan his grandfather had to put a pool into the family’s backyard. The family patriarch had saved and saved and it looked like the pool was actually going to be installed. Then one of his kids stole the money and that promise had to be abandoned.

    Despite such hardships, Wright and his brothers look at their childhood household as a place of hope. He describes his grandparents as very loving. “We were headed toward destruction and they saved us, they told us we were going somewhere. They had love and that’s the message we wanna spread everyday.”

    posted to Cedar Street Times on August 8, 2013

    Topics: Peter Mounteer

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