Monthly Industry Insights
Hear from industry leaders about their guilty pleasures, the oddest thing in their refrigerator, their inspirations and take on new trends. Learn more about the people behind the foods and dishes you know and love - and others you SHOULD know and love. We've asked all of questions and have the answers for you here.
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April's Featured Interview: Adam Lazar, Asarasi
We first met Adam at the 2017 International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York, where he debuted Asarasi for his first year in the Taste NY section of the show.
Tell us a little about Asarasi. Where did the idea for your product come from?
Asarasi was a brain child after a day visiting maple farms across Vermont State in the springtime of 2008. There I witnessed maple producers throw away thousands of gallons of sap water that had the maple sugar molecules removed. After realizing this was a pure plant-based water, and knowing that our drinkable water supply was dwindling, I decided that I needed to find a way to bring this new water resource to consumers.
How long did it take from the formulation of the idea to turning Asarasi into the product it is today, and what was the process like?
The genesis of the idea was born in the Spring of 2008 as I mentioned. After a quick discussion with the producer, I soon realized that maple producers discard 97% of all the sap they collect in the form of pure tree water. From there the idea was manifested and the research of the marketplace occurred over a 5-year period.
Asarasi was founded in July 2014, and began to execute on its operations plan at that time in preparation for the 2015 maple harvest. As of April 2015, Asarasi bottled its first sampling production run after passing a stringent safety and food preparation review by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, Cornell University. A consumer segmentation study was conducted and initial cases were distributed to potential customers to ensure product and concept viability. Thousands of consumers were sampled and data collected, proving out the market opportunity. I found consumers loved Asarasi!
By 2016, Asarasi was ready for its first full production run, which occurred in March of that year. From March through December, the company worked diligently on securing distribution partners and retail outlets. That set the company up for our second full production run in March of 2017, and development of a current customer base of over 500 retail outlets throughout grocery, specialty and foodservice.
Who came up with the name "Asarasi"?
As a product developer, naming is very important. It has to have a deeper connection to the brand, product and overall market. I came up with the name which is derived from the Latin for the sugar maple tree - Aceraceae Saccharum (Ah-Sir-Ah-See). Our water comes from the roots of the maple tree and our name comes from the roots of our language.
Along with a sustainable product, your packaging is eco-friendly and recyclable. Have you found this to be a sustainable business model?
Consumer concerns regarding the source, safety, quality and environmental impacts of traditional bottled water are what we are solving for. This opens up new consumer opportunities in sustainable and socially responsible water production by converting an existing agricultural by-product and re-purposing for emerging consumer markets.
Overall, our broad target is any health-conscious water consumer who is concerned with the source and purity of their water. With drinkable water supplies dwindling and with major health issues arising out of corrupted water supplies, consumers are looking for new sources of water that they can trust.
What advice would you give to other companies who are looking for ways to go green with their product without negatively impacting their bottom line?
Success to me is ensuring company growth with revenues that support the operations of the business ongoing. All of the normal positive cash flows and margins are a big consideration and there are always ways to control overall costs, even if you are focusing on sustainability. However, Asarasi's ability to impact so many people's lives, from farmers to consumers, in such a big way is our defining purpose and, ultimately, if they are successful, we are too.
What can Asarasi fans expect from you in the next year or so?
Asarasi plans on expanding its overall distribution to become a national and potentially international brand. Consumers will soon be able to find Asarasi in Price Chopper, Shaws Star Markets, DeCicco & Sons, ShopRite and other New England grocery stores over the next 30-60 days!
This year was your first year exhibiting at the New York Restaurant Show. What brought you out in 2017?
Asarasi has always found that it was well received by the restaurant channel. It is a unique offering that enhances the customer experience. Therefore, we decided that we needed to get in front of a large group of decision makers in order to build awareness, tell our story and ultimately drive distribution. We continue to see results from the show. For example, Morgan Stanley loved Asarasi so much they brought Asarasi Sparkling Tree Water into every location in New York where we will be sampling the product to their thousands of employees for Earth Day.
What did you leave the show having gained?
We were absolutely swamped throughout all 3 days of the show. It was terrific to see the genuine interest in the brand and the reaction to what Asarasi was all about. We left the show with many solid leads that will help us tremendously in expanding our distribution outlets.
What would you tell other companies considering exhibiting at the New York Restaurant Show?
The show is what you make of it. Come prepared to reach out to as many attendees as possible to tell your story and what makes your product shine. Follow up on the connections you make as the show is a great opportunity as an entry point to starting any ongoing relationship.
Where can people find Asarasi?
Asarasi is adding distribution daily… ShopRite Stores, Price Chopper, Shaw’s Star Markets and DeCicco & Sons, alongside many, many others in foodservice. Retailers, chefs and culinary professionals can source Asarasi through Baldor Specialty Foods in Brooklyn, F&T Foods in Ithaca, UNFI, KeHE, Sysco Connecticut and now Try-It Distributing is carrying Asarasi in Western NY. With new stores coming on board so quickly, the best bet to find us is to log onto our website www.asarasi.com and see our latest locations.
You can also following Asarasi on Facebook @AsarasiSparklingTreeWater; on Instagram @asarasi; on Twitter @asarasiwater; and on LinkedIn.
More about Asarasi:
Looking for a warm, fun activity to do with his daughter in the middle of a Vermont winter, Founder Adam Lazar decided to attend a maple syrup open house. As the farmer went through the production process, Adam witnessed him pouring thousands of gallons of pure water down the drain. After talking about it with the farmer, it was realized that maple producers use only 3% of the saps the collect for syrup and maple products. The remaining 97% is pure tree water that is not utilized and discarded. The idea was born that that this was a new source of incredibly pure water that had never been “tapped”!
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