Manufacturing Slump Not in the Mix for Vitamix
Amid a slow growth environment for U.S. manufacturing, one American company is bucking the trend as consumers invest in high-end blenders to feed their new interest in healthy beverages.
Interest in juicing has jumped so much that juice extractors, citrus juicers, blenders, and food processors are now the top-growing small kitchen appliance categories, according to the NPD Group, a market-research firm. In the 12 months ended May 2013, blender sales totaled $784 million, and juice extractor sales measured $250 million.
High-end blender maker Vitamix has seen its sales rise too as a result. The privately held company reported that its net sales rose 52 percent last year from the year-ago period, and has tripled sales in the past four years.
"We are a 92-year-old family-owned company that is trying to change the way the world thinks about food," said Jodi Berg, the company's president. "Right now, that's our vision, that's the direction we're going."
Vitamix's sales increase stands in stark contrast to overall U.S. manufacturing activity, which has slowed this year as Europe's slump provides a drag on U.S. exports. Businesses also cut back on investment in machinery and equipment in the first quarter.
Increased consumer interest in juice, due in part to juice cleanses, along with more awareness as a result of infomercials and in-store demonstrations at companies like William-Sonoma or Costco has driven demand, said Debra J. Mednick, executive director home industry analyst at the NPD Group.
This should only grow as there has been an increase in the number of juice bars like Jamba Juice. According to Technomic, rivals such as Creative Juice, Evolution Fresh, Nekter Juice Bar, and Daily Juice are popping up around the country.
"It's a great way to get antioxidants and all the nutrients that you can, along with getting fruits and vegetables," Mednick said. "We have an aging population and certainly they're interested. This is kind of polarized where you have younger customers under 45 also becoming more nutrition-centric."
Plus the drinks are being marketing as a meal replacement, which appeals to calorie-conscious consumers, said Darren Tristano, an executive vice president at Technomic. "Juice-bar concepts are here to stay," he added.
To meet this growing demand, Vitamix recently opened a new 175,000-square-foot operations facility and is in the midst of a separate $10-million, 51,000-square-foot expansion of its world headquarters.
(Read More: Do Trendy 'Cleanses' Help or Harm the Body?)
Despite the high growth, Berg said the company plans to stay private as it seeks to improve its customers' lives.
"We don't want anyone that's going to change that laser focus," Berg said.
"We're going to stay the way we are," she continued. "We like being family owned. We like having that personal relationship with our customers."
—By CNBC's Katie Little. Follow her @KatieLittle.