Down at Gothamist HQ we drink a lot of Fizzy Lizzy beverages-- they tend to hit the spot without leaving a sugary film in your mouth. Last week Lizzie wrote us an email, and we decided to interview her about running a carbonated-juice company right here in NYC.
Did you start Fizzy Lizzy because you’d always wanted to have a beverage company?
I hadn't always wanted to have a beverage company in particular but ever since I was a kid I dreamed up different food ideas (I once wrote Morton’s pies suggesting they make a pie with a different flavor for every slice), so food was in my future. I got the idea for Fizzy Lizzy one day when I went for a bike ride on Long Island. I'd always loved to mix juice and seltzer because I find plain juice just too sweet . Before the ride started, I bought a bottle of grapefruit juice and a liter of seltzer for the ride. I had to drink half the grapefruit juice before there was room to add the seltzer and I thought this is ridiculous! Everybody I know mixes juice & seltzer but you can't find it in stores. Not knowing a thing (a thing) about the beverage industry, I forged ahead anyway. I made a ton of phone calls and ultimately found a food scientist who decided to become my partner. We launched Fizzy Lizzy in 2000 and our drinks continue to evolve as we get feedback from our customers all over the country.
Where did you get the courage to start Fizzy Lizzy?
I don’t see it as courage. I see it as insanity! Basically, throughout my twenties and thirties, I alternated back and forth between jobs in business and jobs in non-profit because I was drawn to both but neither alone felt right. My family thought I was nuts to start something so foreign to me but I’d always wanted to love a job, not just like it and I just had a hunch that Fizzy Lizzy would satisfy - and in fact integrate - my diverse interests. So it wasn’t really courage but desperation! Nothing else had taken off and I thought maybe this would.
Was there something about New York City that made Fizzy Lizzy work?
The sheer size of the city and incredible number of fantastic, nichy restaurants, take-out stores and food markets. Having such wide-ranging customers as Two Boots Pizzerias, Fresh Direct, City Bakery, Ozzie’s Coffee (in Brooklyn) and Dean & Deluca gives me both great exposure and a certain stamp of approval that’s really helpful for a start-up company. Plus I get the opportunity to have the most talented, discriminating and plugged-in people try my drink.
What's the toughest part about running the business?
The toughest challenge is maintaining retail accounts on a budget with a limited amount for marketing and promotion. We do in-store demos where we can and of course, we appreciate the editorial interest of media like gothamist. We’ve supported some local special events (such as the FEVA Howl Festival and the DUMBO Arts Under the Bridge) but haven’t yet done wide-spread sampling in the City. That’s will definitely come though.
Can you explain how you make Fizzy Lizzy to those of us without a graduate-level beverage degree?
Fizzy Lizzy contains fruit juice, triple-filtered carbonated water and in some cases, natural flavor and added vitamin C. We buy our juice from all over the world and have it co-packed for us by a bottler who specializes in healthful carbonated drinks. First the juice and water get blended then the mixture as a whole gets carbonated. The bottles get filled, the caps go on and then hundreds of bottles at a time pass through a steam tunnel pasteurizer for several minutes. When they’re cooled they go through the automatic labeler. Then this giant thingamajig picks up twenty-four bottles at a time and drops them into our 4-pack containers sitting in a waiting cardboard box. They’re still warm for minutes later. No matter how many times I see the process work, I’m always thrilled by it. It’s like having thousands of little babies born all new and waiting to greet the world.
Sparkling With Simplizzity is a pretty amusing tagline-- do you have any others?
I can’t lay claim to any other taglines but our fans are known as “Fizzicists” and our favorite cocktail (Fizzy Lizzy with vodka) is called a “Dizzy Lizzy!”
I’ve seen Fizzy Lizzy for $2.50 a bottle here in NYC. Why is Fizzy Lizzy so expensive?
You actually found a bottle for only $2.50? There’s a cafe in L.A. that gets $3.75! In all seriousness though, Fizzy Lizzy usually costs $1.49 to $1.79 and in a town where a plastic bottle of water (water, for crying out loud!) fetches $1.50, that’s not half bad. While $1.75 may seem like a lot to dole out for a sparkling juice, we actually offer the best value in the category. Fizzy Lizzy uses more “characterizing” juice than our competitors (the juice you think you’re getting like pineapple, grapefruit, etc.) and significantly less filler juice – juice like white grape. So Fizzy Lizzy is more authentic and healthful than other brands but roughly the same price.
What’s the record for the number of Fizzy Lizzys I’ve drunk in one day?
I don’t binge drink but I do get bent out of shape if I can’t have my bottle of orange Fizzy Lizzy every morning with breakfast.
Is there a special flavor you always wanted to make?
I’m known amongst my friends for having very, shall we say, unusual eating habits. I absolutely adore what I’ve dubbed a Smooth Lizzy –- a combination of Fizzy Lizzy (orange or pineapple) with a dollop of whipped up plain yogurt. It’s sublime.
You just wrote an Op Ed piece about the perils of 100% juice-beverages being required in some public schools. What's wrong with the pure juice?
Plain, 100% juice tastes really sweet because it’s loaded with fruit sugar and calories. It may have tons of vitamin C, but many types of juice (such as orange) actually have way more than you need! So a Fizzy Lizzy offers the best both worlds. It’s delicious and nutritious like juice (with 100% vitamin C) but light and thirst-quenching like seltzer.