Interview with David Meniane, Founder of Victoria's Kitchen Natural Beverages

Sarah Velasco: Can you tell us about yourself? How did you get started?
David Meniane: My name is David Meniane and with my wife Deborah, we are the founders of Victoria's Kitchen Natural Beverages. Born in France, we moved to Los Angeles in 2000. I started my career as a CPA and eventually ended up in the real estate industry. Up until 2 years ago, Deborah was a commercial interior designer. 
When we moved to the US, we had my grandmother Victoria's amazing recipe for Almond Water. I had been drinking Almond Water since I was a child. The same way American grandmothers make lemonade or sweet iced tea, my grandma Victoria was making Almond Water in her kitchen. (Click here for an easy recipe to make it at home: http://www.drinkvictoriaskitchen.com/homemade-almond-water/).
Deborah and I started making it at home when we had parties, barbecues and game nights and our friends could never get enough of it. The only concern was that our Almond Water took a long time to make and was not shelf stable. Deborah and I had always wanted to work together so one day we decided to officially bring Almond Water to the US market. That's when we created an all natural, low calorie, and shelf stable Almond Water.

Sarah Velasco: Can you tell readers about Victoria's Kitchen? How did that begin? 

David Meniane: Knowing almost nothing about the beverage industry, we embarked in a really fun adventure. Working with various suppliers for premium natural ingredients, we finally came up with a great recipe mixing flavors and extracts of almond, vanilla and rose combined with a hint of sweetness. We designed a basic bottle, did a small production run and started going door to door. Two years later, our Almond Water is now carried in over 800 locations.

Sarah Velasco: What is your mission? 

David Meniane: Our mission is just to be who we are. We are careful about what we consume but we're not above enjoying ourselves once in a while. We want to make beverages that are above all, delicious and refreshing. If they don't do anything special or have a few calories, we are ok with that. Our Almond Water Coconut is 50 calories per serving and we think that is perfectly ok.

Sarah Velasco: What types of products do you carry? 

David Meniane: As of May 2014, we sell 2 beverages: Almond Water Original and Almond Water Coconut. The original is inspired by my grandmother's recipe and combines flavors of Almond, Vanilla and Rose. The Coconut is more a tropical version of Almond Water and has a touch of Coconut flavor. With only 50 calories per servings, it is kind of a Virgin Almond Pina Colada. It is crisp and refreshing.

I always loved lemonade. Back in 2000, when I moved to LA, the first time I went to restaurant with free refills on lemonade, I must have drunk at least 10 glasses! However, over the years, I've seen my taste for really sweet beverages diminish and even though I like a little sweetness, a lot of the lemonades out there had sometime up to 250 calories for 16oz. That's why, earlier this year, Deborah and I went on a quest to create our own interpretation of the perfect lemonade with a balance of sweet and tart flavors. From what I saw on the shelves of grocery stores, it's either 30g of sugar per serving or no sugar at all with some low calorie sweetener. What if we could create an organic lemonade that is neither a diet lemonade nor a high calorie lemonade. We started with organic lemon juice, a hint of organic agave, some cold-pressed ginger to give it a little kick and voila. Introducing Victoria's Kitchen's Low Calorie Organic Lemonade with Cold-pressed Ginger. Sweetened with 9g of organic agave per serving, it only has 40 calories per serving. It will launch in August 2014 at select retailers.

Sarah Velasco: What makes your product unique in the market? 

David Meniane: After 2+ years on the market, we are still the only company selling Almond Water. It has the perfect balance of almond, vanilla and rose flavor mixed with a hint of sweetness.

Sarah Velasco: Are there common misconceptions about almond water? 
David Meniane: Although Almond Water has a widely recognized flavor profile in France, Greece, Italy and even Turkey, it was relatively unknown in the US until Deborah and I started selling it. Sales of Almond Milk products have really boomed in the US and people sometimes get us confused. To help consumers understand the difference, we tell them that Almond Milk is a dairy substitute but Almond Water is a substitute to your lemonade, iced tea or even high calorie soda.

Sarah Velasco: Are there other uses for almond water? Can they be used in recipes?
David Meniane: Functional drinks that give you energy, electrolytes or even digestive enzymes are really popular these days but I think that there is still a huge demand for natural drinks that are a little sweet but most importantly delicious and refreshing. At Victoria's Kitchen, we make natural beverages that taste good and we think that is enough. When I drank Almond Water as a kid, I never asked what function it served. It was just a really cool refreshing drink I could have with my grandma's amazing Apple Cake. 

Almond Water is a great cocktail mixer and is really fun to play with however it can sometimes be used to make amazing savory recipes. Over the years, people have emailed us amazing recipes they discovered on their own. You can check out the following link: http://www.drinkvictoriaskitchen.com/savory/ for an Almond Saffron Rice or a really amazing Gazpacho.

Sarah Velasco: Can you tell readers one fantastic cocktail recipe using Almond Water Original? Almond Water Coconut? 

David Meniane: Now this is the fun question. One of my favorite beverage is an Almond Holiday Sangria. It combines Almond Water, cranberry juice, rosemary and white wine. For the full recipe go to: http://www.drinkvictoriaskitchen.com/cocktails/
As for the Almond Water Coconut, I like to make cool smoothies with it. Mixing frozen fruits like Bananas, Mangos and Blueberries, it is the perfect summer treat. For more recipes, go to: http://www.drinkvictoriaskitchen.com/smoothies/

Sarah Velasco: Where can readers find your products? 

David Meniane: Our Almond Water is available in over 800 locations (mostly on the West Coast). With a focus on natural and specialty retailers, we are sold in stores like Whole Foods, Bristol Farms, New Seasons, AJ's fine foods and many more. We are also sold at HEB in Texas and The Fresh Market on the East Coast. For all stores, visit our store locator at: http://www.drinkvictoriaskitchen.com/store-locator/

Sarah Velasco: Anything else we should know? 

David Meniane: We are still growing with a large focus on Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Portland and Seattle. If you shop at a grocery store that does NOT carry Almond Water yet, please talk to the manager and tell him or her you really want it. That works!!! We thank you for your support.
Also, we will soon be hiring sales and merchandising reps in the Bay area and Northwest. If someone has at least 2-3 years of experience in the beverage space, please email me at david@drinkvictoriaskitchen.com.

Recently, Victoria's Kitchen Natural Beverages was one of 3 finalists for the prestigious SOFI awards. This award is like the Oscars of the specialty food industry! Winners will be announced at the Summer Fancy Food Show in NYC on June 30, 2014.
Also, Victoria's Kitchen Natural Beverages won an award from Beverage World Magazine. The award winners will be featured in a special editorial section in the issue of Beverage World July 2014.