Some would say smoothies run in Samantha Levin’s veins. Including Levin herself.

“I have a love for smoothies and juices because I came from a family where we were always playing around with them,” said Levin, 24, who launched a new line of bottled, superfood smoothies called Sam Lives! at the Portland Whole Foods Market earlier this month. The store sold out of its initial order of 500 bottles in two days.

All the smoothies are cold-processed, soy-free, gluten-free and vegan.

In 1992, when she was 2 years old, Levin’s parents Douglas Levin and Abby Carter founded the Fresh Samantha juice company (eventually headquartered in Saco) and named it after her. The company prospered throughout the decade and in 2000 her parents sold the company to Odwalla, which shortly thereafter was swallowed up by Coca-Cola. The Fresh Samantha juices were retired.

Now with Levin at the helm, the Sam Lives! line returns this creative family to the world of premium juice with a trio of smoothies that pair quirky charm with sophisticated taste twists such as basil and grapefruit with strawberry.

“I started with the familiar flavors of mango, strawberry and kale,” Levin said. In Sam Lives! lingo, that’s Jangled Mango, Duke of Kale and Strawberry Basil the III. The $5.49 suggested retail price for each 12-ounce bottle is meant to be about the price of a sandwich, since the drinks are intended as an on-the-go meal.


That required they have certain macronutrients – good fats, complex carbs, protein and fiber. Fruit and vegetables are filled with complex carbohydrates and fiber, so Levin had no trouble there. To add fat, she turned to organic extra-virgin olive oil and for protein she adds a spoonful of organic hemp seeds to each drink. The seeds are mixed in after the drink is blended, which means they provide a pleasantly chewy aspect to the smoothies.

“When you chew them it helps your body break down and absorb the nutrients more,” Levin said.

The smoothies also contain super foods, such as camu camu (a Brazilian fruit) and spirulina (an algae).

Gary Hemphill with New York City-based research firm Beverage Marketing Corporation said adding super foods and positioning the drinks as a meal replacement will help the Sam Lives! brand stand-out.

“If you look at the overall market for fruit beverages, performance has been somewhat soft in recent years,” said Hemphill, who serves as managing director of research. “However, the high end of the market, which it seems Sam Lives! is targeting, is growing and doing much better.”

Hemphill added that every brand needs a story and Levin’s ties to Fresh Samantha “provide her with a story to tell.”


The fact that Sam Lives! bottles have found their way onto the shelves of the nation’s leading health food retailer bodes well for the company’s success, too, Hemphill said. “In addition to that, it’s key to have a highly attractive package,” he said.

The bright, eye-catching Sam Lives! packaging comes with a Fresh Samantha pedigree, since Levin’s mother – a children’s book illustrator – drew both the Sam Lives! labels and the Fresh Samantha labels.

Amy Crosby, who is the marketing team leader at Whole Foods Market in Portland, called the drink a “a wonderful product,” adding “We’re super excited about it.”

Levin, a 24-year-old Bowdoin grad who majored in English and minored in visual art, starts each morning by making a fruity concoction in her Vitamix. These days she and her blender are living in the same family homestead – her grandparents’ former house in Scarborough – where her dad starting making juice and smoothies more than two decades ago. (Her grandparents, Bob and Julie Carter, recently moved to a retirement community.)

Levin hopes to expand throughout New England eventually, but for the next few months she is focused on doing tastings at Whole Foods and getting the juices into more stores in the Portland area.

“I hope to go into Boston,” Levin said. “I also want to get into the colleges in New England, since it’s great for college students who want something healthy but don’t cook much.”


That’s taking a leaf from her parents’ playbook. Douglas Levin has often attributed Fresh Samantha’s early success to a chance contract with Tufts University near Boston.

Anyone who lived in Maine in the 1990s likely remembers Fresh Samantha, with a juice bar on Temple Street and its bottled juices available throughout the state. The company was a leader in the natural foods industry, with its distinctive bottled juices being sold up and down the East Coast.

It started when her parents relocated from New York to Portland to help her grandparents with the alfalfa sprout farm they operated out of the basement of their Scarborough home. Her dad became enamored with a local carrot juice and later bought the company that made it, including its industrial-size blender (now also being used in producing the Sam Lives! smoothies).

“My dad started playing around with the blender in the basement,” Levin recalled. “He was blending stuff one bottle at the time. He got my uncle involved and my grandparents involved. He got everyone excited.”

In 1998, Forbes magazine reported “Fresh Samantha’s sales last year jumped to $7 million, from $2.8 million in 1996, and the company earned its first profit – $350,000.” The company continued to grow and Levin’s parents sold it to Odwalla for $29 million in 2000. Today Douglas Levin and Abby Carter live in Lyme, Conn., close enough to keep watch over the Sam Lives! production line. The Sam Lives! blends are produced and bottled in Waterbury, Conn., using a cold pasteurization technique called high pressure processing intended to kill pathogens but retain nutrients.

And what about the real Fresh Samantha? Levin said she’s thrilled to be entering the juice business, excited to be back in Maine and determined to upgrade the national diet.


“My ultimate goal with these products is to improve the American diet,” Levin said. “I know from personal experience that people don’t always have time to make themselves a meal during the work or school day. Instead of reaching for processed microwavable meals, fast food or artificial meal replacement shakes, I hope they’ll pick up my wicked delicious, super nutritious meals in a bottle.”

Avery Yale Kamila is a freelance food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at:


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