Dirty Lemon is a direct-to-consumer beverage company that aims to challenge the retail landscape and disrupt the category by selling it’s line of products exclusively via text message, building a personalized relationship with each member of its rapidly-growing customer base. The Brooklyn-based company was founded in August 2015 by Zak Normandin and Sommer Carroll.
Currently Dirty Lemon offers three different wellness drinks featuring ingredients that have been well established in the naturopathic community. The current offering includes [Skin + Hair], [Detox] and [Sleep]. With a few texts, each is packaged up in six-bottle cases and shipped to customer’s doorstep for $65 apiece. The brand is planning to roll out more products later this year, with the agility to move quickly on new wellness trends and buzz-worthy ingredients.
“When we founded Dirty Lemon, we both had a very simple goal: to merge a healthier beverage offering with a novel distribution strategy in a category that is failing to connect with modern consumers,” Sommer Carroll said.
“We are trekking into uncharted territory, working to attract customers online to buy a product that they have never tasted. There’s a high risk factor, but it’s paying off.” Normandin said, “Each customer to date has been acquired through social media or by word of mouth, they’re talking about us and more importantly, they’re reordering.”
Normandin said that Dirty Lemon’s customer base has grown to 30,000 customers in the past year, processing 50,000 text messages a month, with millions of dollars transacting through the platform.
“We’re using SMS as our primary platform to sell the product,” Normandin said. “We built out a tech platform that allows customers to ask questions anytime and place orders for any of our beverages. It removes all the friction points that you typically encounter when ordering a product online, and solves the problem of empty-carts.”
“Our order system allows us to talk to customers all day long; we literally answer tens of thousands of messages a month, a habit that has allowed the brand to grow into one that represents the people who purchase, instead of filtering a traditional top-down approach to marketing focused on extreme performance, or quick-fix results,” Carroll said.
Normadin believes that future of commerce is conversation-based, without having customers be required to download an app or log into a website to make a purchase.
“My vision in three years is to have millions of customers purchasing and consuming our beverages on a monthly basis,” Normandin said. “We want to own your refrigerator space with beverages that are shipped to you directly, with an experience that is more elevated than something you would normally pick up at a grocery store. Our direct-to-consumer model allows us to offer the same level of innovation to consumers in trend-centric cities like New York or Los Angeles, as we do to consumers in Tampa or Detroit.”
Dirty Lemon works with two food scientists and an in-house naturopath to develop beverages that are both healthy and scalable.
“We can develop a new beverage product in 30-45 days, then send a text message to all of our subscribers advertising it,” Normandin said. “We have unlimited shelf space, allowing us to hyper target customers in a really unique way.”
Prior to launching Dirty Lemon, Normandin founded Little Duck Organics, a children’s snack company which complimented Carroll’s background in tech and wellness.
“During our initial brainstorming sessions, Zak and I found that we both have very complimentary skill-sets,” Carroll said. “Zak had already launched a kid’s food brand and had gained valuable wisdom in traditional retail, while I was winding down work on a technical project, eager to put some of my experience to work in a category I’ve always been passionate about. On a basic level, I think we both realized early on that having a co-founder helps immensely to keep a brand from becoming myopic, and keeps key decision-making from becoming overly subjective.”
Dirty Lemon plans to continue to scale this year, from launching new products to enacting a new marketing plan to target future customers.
“We’re building a really interesting lifestyle brand that is in line with all the standards of the natural food space, but feels more genuine and approachable to the consumer,” Normandin said. “On the business side, Dirty Lemon is pushing the boundaries of the category,” he added. “I’m not saying that every company will be using SMS to process transactions, but for a high-frequency item sold by a brand looking for a more intimate relationship with their consumers, this is such a perfect solution.”
“We’re definitely working in new, open terrain with Dirty Lemon,” Carroll said. “We all see how powerfully the voice of the customer can shape a brand and we’re truly excited to continue to make decisions that live up to that standard.”