Moon Juice’s Amanda Chantal Bacon On Shaking Off Haters, Staying Out Of The Influencer Fray And Winding Up At Malls In Middle America
In a peer group of very cool wellness brands, Moon Juice may be the coolest. It’s also been cool to poke fun at Moon Juice and its founder, Amanda Chantal Bacon. Much of the folderol was incited by an Elle article in which Bacon painstakingly detailed her exotic daily intake, including a mushroom protein-powered chi drink and three quinton shots. There were articles about the article. There were articles about the articles about the article. While others rhapsodized and some snickered, Bacon expanded her brand at an impressive clip: Moon Juice’s business has doubled since 2016 and registered continual double-digit growth year-over-year. To experience some of what Bacon outlined in the now infamous article, you can pick up Moon Juice’s products at one of the 500-plus U.S. doors where the brand is sold. Maybe it’s the quinton shots? Beauty Independent spoke with Chantal Bacon about the brand’s booming subscription service, “dusting” Middle America, dealing with internet trolls, (not) working with influencers, Emily Weiss and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Moon Juice brought on a new president last year. How has it been having someone else in a leadership role in the company?
It’s been incredible. I took a really long time to find the president that I have. Elizabeth [Ashmun] truly is the right fit. She’s got a background in food and a background in beauty. Her experience has been at big, corporate [firms] taking companies through acquisition. To have that type of structure, experience and foresight at the table, that’s really what I was after. In somebody who’s a woman, I think it’s incredible. I was open to male or female, but I have a predominantly female team [71%]. We’ve got some males on store level working behind the counter. We’ve got some males in our kitchen producing, and we’ve got a couple males in finance, but all of the managerial roles, even in the kitchen, are female, which is extremely rare.
She has a real respect for the brand. There’s an understanding and a respect for what the brand stands for and for quality being at the heart of it. She was a really, really rare find, and I think that we work really well together. What she can bring to the company is what I can’t and don’t want to bring to the company, and what I can remain doing is I can actually hone in on what is unique about myself and what I can offer. It wasn’t just her, it was starting with her and, then, we spent the year transitioning some of the team and bringing on some critical new hires. That takes a while.
Do you see Moon Juice becoming part of a larger company someday? Is there an exit plan?
An exit plan isn’t in the picture. We are working on bringing the power of plants to as many people as possible.
How was it launching skincare for the first time? Was it quite different from ingestibles?
I find them to be very similar, and I think there is an industry standard, from what I understand now, going through it, working with the chemist and taking a year to come up with two products. The amount of revisions, my pickiness around it and the potency of the product and not wanting to use fillers, that I’m realizing now is not typical. A lot of times formulators will have a library of products you can pump your own scent into. I really went about it from scratch, picking a few key ingredients, finding the best examples and, then, creating a stable, efficacious product around those ingredients and putting as little in as possible.
I found that to be really fun. Not that different from [creating a supplement]. I guess it takes longer. It takes me somewhere in between creating a supplement and creating all the recipes for the milks and foods, and all the delicacies we have in the shop. With a supplement, we can really do sourcing, hit ratios of certain herbs and where they should be, and it’s a couple times back and forth. When we’re making Spirit Dust-filled ganache bon bons, there’s a bunch of back and forth I do with my kitchen. Skincare is somewhere in there.
Have you found customers that perhaps wouldn’t have tried Moon Juice Dusts are opening up to them through the skincare line?
Maybe. The exposure that we have, being in all Sephora doors, being in all of the Nordstroms, certainly has played a role. I think Moon Juice continues to creep deeper and deeper into American mass consciousness. There’s that curiosity and, then, there is this global wellness movement, and adaptogens having a buzzy moment. So, curiosity is there and, if you look, you can usually find Moon Juice. So, I think that it really is this perfect storm, and we continue to get more and more trials. As time goes on, people that were early adopters are now cult fanatics, have their products on subscription and, eventually, convince all of their friends. Everything is moving toward that. We retain more people. We’ve got a steady base of repeat customers on subscription. We’ve got tons of new visitors that are trying several products, and they’ll lock in on one. That continues to happen.
When did Moon Juice set up subscription, and what has the response been?
The response has been good. I don’t think we’ve gone out and pushed subscriptions like you see some of these digitally-native brands do. That really isn’t our intention. Our intention is convenience for our customer and some savings built in there. We’re sort of quiet about it. It’s an option when you check out. It’s not digital ads in your face, but there’s an overwhelming amount of people that are on subscription. I’m so impressed. I actually go through our subscription base often. Where are they from? What’s their name? What are they getting? This is so cool.
You’ve said you’re a fan of Thorne prenatal vitamins. Would you ever create a prenatal vitamin? Do you think the supplement and wellness industries overlap?
A lot of what I’ve seen in the wellness world, I say this very gracefully, is a smaller company. Maybe they’ve got one product or a few products. I’m an alternative medicine nerd. I’ve been living my life like this for so long, it’s strange that it’s become this whole industry, lifestyle, fashion, all of this.
My brand fits right into them, but, as a consumer, I would not be buying a lot of the fashiony, beautiful wellness products out there. I check them all out. I really do screen for sourcing, testing. There’s so much junk out there. I really have done my research and kept up on this for years and years and years. So, a lot of the wellness industry I am skeptical of. I hate to say it because I think it takes a lot to have the expertise to go out, source, dual test and scale on a safe and potent level. I know what it takes. It takes a lot of money. It takes a lot of manpower. It takes a lot of expertise. I continue to like Thorne, companies like Metagenics. I really do like those brands. Even within those brands, though, I’ll know this company has a better source of vitamin D than that company, so I pick and choose within that.
I don’t see them as competition. I think they’re so much bigger and more specific than anything that I would do or turn into. They’ve got block-outs in pharmacies where it’s just vitamin A through Z. Anything at Moon Juice starts from some need I have that isn’t being met fully by something that’s out there. Typically, when I find something that’s perfect and someone’s doing it, great, I support them, they’ve done it. But [Moon Juice] products really do come from, “I feel like this could be done a little bit better, and I want that.”
When I think about our growth in terms of standards, sourcing, science, potency and efficacy, that’s where my mind is. That’s where I want to continue to move, and get deeper and deeper and deeper into that. I think that my product will always be a little bit different. These companies [like Thorne] are run by teams of predominantly male scientists, which is great. But, when you take somebody who’s not a scientist and is female, you’re going to get a really different company and a really different product.
What I like to bring to the table that I’m not sure I see in the fashiony wellness industry yet, is to take all the beautiful packaging that speaks to women in a way that I would want to be spoken to, but bring the same science, efficacy and safety to the table.
What’s it been like to bring Moon Juice to national retailers all over the U.S.?
I spend a lot of my time working directly with our retail partners. You never know where life is going to take you. I spend a good portion of my life now on domestic airplanes staying in hotels for one night, going out to big malls in America. I’m on the floor with teams, [doing] trainings with floor staff and management. I’ll go and work with headquarters, too.
In some ways it’s really strange, like, “Wait, how did this happen?” I’m somewhere else in America every other week in yet another hotel. It’s like that life I’ve heard of other people having for other jobs that I don’t envy, and all of a sudden I’m doing it.
When I first opened Moon Juice over seven years ago, and I could be in the shop, and I could talk to people. They didn’t know what almond milk was, and they never had an unsweetened green juice or green juice, didn’t know what maca was, forget about adaptogens. That was what kept me going and kept me showing up every day, tirelessly talking about things.
The world has changed so much in the last seven years. Our customers are really well-educated. Anybody coming into Moon Juice is super well-educated. So, I’m really grateful for the opportunity to get out into other parts of America, and speak to staff and customers that are going into a location for a hair curler or a mascara. They stumble upon this, and this is all new to them. That’s really where I want to be.
It’s not the most glamorous. It certainly takes a lot of energy, but, ultimately, it’s putting me where I want to be, where the conversation is really valuable. A lot of times I’m really surprised, impressed and deeply touched by the experiences that I do have, where I’ll go out and assume that, it’s a different demographic, they’re not in coastal cities, they’re not in yoga gear, this is going to be all new. But, a lot of times, it’s somebody who’s really, really sick, who’s actually working in Sephora, and they have an autoimmune disease or they’ve had cancer or they have had part of their endocrine systems surgically removed.
I see the [medical] path [they’ve been on], the overwhelm and the sadness in someone. I see the scars on their body sometimes. I see what happened to their body when they’re on all that medication. I will find people where they’ve been on the allopathic, and they’re at the point of, “Hey, this isn’t working anymore.” They’ve actually gone to the internet and Googled, and here I show up thinking, “Alright, we’re going to talk about adaptogens and your endocrine system. Does anybody know about that?” And the unhealthiest looking person will raise their hand and be like, “Yes, I’m struggling with this. What do you think about tumeric? What do you think about ashwagandha?” People are getting hip all over the place. That really is the nicest thing, when I can make that connection with someone. Getting the information out there is a challenge, but there is this wellspring of movement happening everywhere.
Moon Juice doesn’t work with influencers. Will it in the future?
Maybe I’m old-fashioned. I want to spend my time, resources and energy on making a really great product. Let’s make a great product and, if people want it, they will come. I think our product is so specific, too. I don’t know if a Kardashian is going to sell more [of the adaptogenic blend] SuperYou. And what does that mean, anyway? Are those customers that you retain for a lifetime? I’m thinking quality over quantity. Our people on subscriptions, they’re not Instagramming about us. They’re quietly spending thousands of dollars with us a year and don’t stop. And that number continues to grow. I value that customer more, and the whole inflated game of influencers and giving them free product and paying them to put it on Instagram Stories is like, what kind of fish do you catch with that? I think somebody who maybe buys your product once or twice and, then, is on to the next thing.
We do have influencers. We have a lot of celebrities that use our products and take pictures in our stores. We don’t pay them, and we’re not in communication with them. They’re doing it because they love it, and I like that world better. For me, whenever there’s some frantic scene, a trend and a fad, I don’t get frantic with everyone. If anything, [I] want to retreat away from that. I really do believe in the slow and steady long game, building customers in a really genuine, honest way.
You’ve said Emily Weiss is a role model of yours. Why?
She’s a friend of mine. She’s actually younger than I am, which is cool when you can have a role model that’s younger than you. She did an incredible job. She took a blog and had goods to sell, and made this happen very quickly. I think she has single-handedly changed the way the industry looks at itself. She’s forced big corporations to consider how they’re talking to their customer. She’s turned marketing upside down, and I think, certainly in beauty, that needed a shake up. Anyone that can disrupt the conversation and so quickly make a whole bunch of men in suits feel insecure [is a role model]. Nobody has made them feel like that for a very long time or ever. So, hats off to that.
What’s the biggest misconception about you?
Oh gosh. So many. I think there’s this misconception that I’m very rigid and controlled. I don’t feel that way. I’m not as rigid as people think I am. I don’t have so many rules.
How do you deal with criticism on the internet?
In a weird way, I feel kind of removed. I can’t really take it personally because these people don’t know me. On the one hand, there are pictures of my home out there. There are pictures of my child. I’ve given interviews. I’ve talked about things. In some ways, it looks like I’ve given a very intimate look into my life, and I have. I’ll always be honest. I’ll be candid about anything to anyone at any time. That’s a blessing and a curse. I put it all out there, and people can speculate about it. But I also still feel like I’m such a private person, and there’s so much about me that is not out there and that people don’t know.
I feel protected. I feel safe and protected within myself, so I think, when people are out there saying crazy things and, then, it gets into the physical thing, like, “Why am I fat? Why are you too skinny?,” it’s like, woah. These people don’t know me. They’ve never seen me in person. We’ve never had a conversation, so I really don’t take it that personally.
The only time when [it] feels a little bit weird is when I’ve had someone come into my home and spend the day with me to do an interview. They were such a nice, genuine person in my home, and we had lunch and I let them into my life. They were so nice and, then, they write this article, and it’s like, “Huh, interesting.” That just seems kind of sociopathic, but, whatever. That’s maybe where it feels a bit odd, but the people that I don’t know making comments about me, I don’t know. Maybe it’s good that I’m busy. I’m working. I have a kid and husband, and there’s stuff going on, so I can’t dwell too much on it.
Is there anyone that you would love to get Moon Juice products in the hands of?
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez because she is today’s superwoman.