This Juice Company Uses the Superfood You’ve Never Heard About

X.O.I Company makes juices from Vietnamese Gac fruit.

Gac fruit

X.O.I juices/Photo by Jamie Ducharme

Linh Tran meant to write a thesis. Instead, she founded a company.

During the summer after her sophomore year at Brown University, Tran returned to her native Vietnam to live in a small village populated mainly by ethnic minority farmers. “I was going to write a whole thing about how fair trade is not a thing in Vietnam, and how farmers are paid literally nothing for what they work for,” she remembers.

That didn’t happen. Instead, she and her best friend Myron Lam, who traveled with her, began looking for ways to help the community they’d grown to love. When they graduated two years later, X.O.I Company was born, with a little help from crowdfunding and Brown fellowships. It began selling its products in March of this year.

X.O.I, now based in Boston and run solely by Tran, helps Vietnamese farmers earn a living wage by sharing one of the country’s signature crops—Gac fruit—with consumers in the United States. Farmers grow Gac in Vietnam, then sell it to X.O.I at a fair price. Back in Boston, the fruit is turned into juices, then sold at roughly 20 retail locations in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

“Our margin is [tiny],” Tran admits, “but we’re not in the game for making money.”

While X.O.I’s founding mission was a social one, Tran says the spiky red fruit is a nutritional powerhouse, too. Equivalent amounts of the fruit are said to have 70 times more lycopene than tomatoes, and 10 times more beta-carotene than carrots. It’s also believed to be good for anti-aging and skincare (skin oils may be the company’s next product, Tran says), heart health, reproductive health, vision, and immune health.

“We wanted to sell the health benefits to the consumer here, and we also wanted to make it taste good with less calories and less sugar,” she says. “Just a pure, simple product.”

Curious? You can purchase X.O.I’s three flavors—ginger rosemary pear, apple chamomile cider, and beets and berries—for $3.99 per bottle at locations such as Whole Foods and Foodie’s, or online.