The Dirty Lemon Disruption

1 May 2018

It’s been said that tapping into the beverage industry is one of the toughest tasks to take on, but for Zak Normandin it seemed like a no brainer. With over 10 years of experience in the industry and a successful acquisition of his first company, Little Duck Organics, he knew his audience, how to brand it and what to sell.

That’s when he had the idea for Dirty Lemon: the direct-to-consumer detox drinks brand that sells its products via text message – “conversational commerce” Zak calls it. We sat down with Zak to find out what it takes to break into a one trillion dollar industry and how he caught the attention of Vogue, The New York Times and Forbes, to name a few.

Dirty Lemon x Vogue
Dirty Lemon x Vogue

Forget the trends

What made Dirty Lemon so successful from the start was the brand’s ability to go completely against today’s trends. With a curiosity for brand and product design tied with the rise of direct-to-consumer brands like Dollar Shave Club and Warby Parker, Zak noticed a gap in one of the most traditional industries: drinks. Three years ago marked the rise of the juice cleanse, and he realized it wasn’t a manageable and smart lifestyle to live. So he based his target audience on this and he nailed it. Dirty Lemon prides itself on having less than 1g of sugar and is charcoal activated to help stimulate a full-body detox. On top of that, Zak ditched the traditional wholesale model and introduced the first ever fully direct-to-consumer drinks brand.

Dirty Lemon Pop Up
Dirty Lemon

Disruption from every angle

If you want to stand out in an industry that is dominated by two major conglomerates – Pepsi and Coca-Cola – you can’t just take one step forward, you need to leap into a whole new terrority to stand out. When starting Dirty Lemon, technology continued to be on the rise and more and more people couldn’t put down their phones. Zak decided to use this as leverage and created a technology platform that allows customers to buy products via text message. Right now, Dirty Lemon is the only company in the US that does this and almost 90% of sales to date are generated this way.

The overall vision? To create a technology platform that owns the customer data, operational infrastructure and sell drinks to consumers.

Dirty Lemon Pop Up
The Rose Room

Experience, experience, experience

With a mindset to always think big, physical activations have been an essential part to the overall brand. It started in Nolita with a non-alcoholic cocktail bar called The Drug Store, that had been shared over social media due to its retro ‘drugs’ sign and unique concept. And what’s followed in the last six months is a full takeover of the Ludlow Hotel, a live performance with Cardi B in a beautiful Soho townhouse, and a Valentine’s Day flower shop on the LES that also doubled as a tattoo parlour. “This is only the beginning,” Zak states, and these short-term activations have been tests to launch longer, bigger concepts for Dirty Lemon. There’s even talks of a second appearance of The Drug Store, in Tribeca this summer for all the New Yorkers who can’t get enough of the brand.

Dirty Lemon Pop Up
The Drug Store

Want to learn more about how Zak got started? Watch our Underground Session recap here and find out what he had to say.