Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, some of San Diego’s best-known brands are showing up for local health care workers with donations
Some of San Diego’s most popular consumer goods companies are showing up at hospitals across the county this week, delivering gifts to health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Suja Juice, the cold-pressed juice manufacturer that’s been booming for the past decade, has been delivering cases of its fruit and veggie drinks every Wednesday to the front doorsteps of Sharp Memorial, Scripps Green, UC San Diego Medical in Hillcrest and La Jolla, among other locations.
James Brennan, Suja’s co-founder, is delivering the goods himself, as he was wary about asking his employees to enter high-risk zones. This Wednesday will mark his fourth week of deliveries. He said hospital staffers have responded sweetly to the gifts and recounted one nurse who got emotional when she learned the donations were for her.
“They’re tired, they’re worn down, and little gestures go a long way,” Brennan said.
Suja is in a good position to be generous with its product, as the company has experienced boosted sales during the COVID-19 outbreak. Green juices and highly concentrated veggie “tonics” are flying off the shelves of grocery stores, as shoppers seek out health-focused brands during times of illness.
“The plant is insanely busy trying to keep up with demand from the supermarkets,” Brennan said. “We were doing really well before all this — we’ve had a good run over the last six to seven months. But this supermarket surge took it to a whole new level.”
He estimated sales have spiked 35 percent since the pandemic took hold. Suja, headquartered in San Diego and partially owned by Coca-Cola, was earning over $100 million in revenue as of 2018.
Suja is one of many local brands showing up with boxes of goodies for health care workers. Pacific Beach sunglass brand, Blenders, paused its manufacturing of beach-inspired eyewear to instead make safety goggles, which have been in short supply along with masks and other protective gear, for health care workers. Readers might remember Blenders from its recent news — it was acquired by an Italian eyewear giant at a $90 million valuation in October.
Blenders is donating 10,000 safety goggles that meet health care regulations to hospitals across San Diego and Los Angeles this week and next week. Plans are in place to deliver 2,000 pairs to Sharp Healthcare, 3,500 to Scripps Health, 4,000 to UCLA Medical Center. The remaining 500 pairs will go to friends and family working in affected industries.
The move was a little riskier for Blenders than for Suja, as the sunglass company has not seen a sales boom in recent weeks.
“E-commerce is not insulated from the effects of COVID-19,” said Chase Fisher, CEO of Blenders. “Everyone (in retail) is taking this pretty hard. Unless you’re selling essential goods, you’re hurting right now. And sunglasses aren’t essential goods.”
Fisher said he felt the donations were important, regardless of the drop in business.
“It was very risky, but we knew we have to pay it forward,” Fisher said. “This is not about us. This is about people on front lines. The community of San Diego has had our back from day one. We felt a responsibility to step up and be proactive.”
Suja and Blenders are also joined in their donations by La Jolla-based Pura Vida, the bracelet brand that recently got acquired by Vera Bradley for $75 million. The retail company is sending several hundred bracelets with Suja next week to gift to nurses and their families.
“Everybody wants to show their appreciation,” Brennan said of Pura Vida’s donations. “That’s the spirit of what’s going to get us through all this.”