A continental combination: Manta finds passion in soccer and startup

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While growing up in Chandler, Arizona, the quintessentially American sports of baseball and football never particularly interested junior soccer midfielder Luis Manta. His Uruguayan heritage and his parents, who grew up outside of the United States, led him to a more internationally popular sport- soccer.

For as long as he can remember, Manta has been playing soccer. While in high school in Arizona, he even left for Uruguay for a short while to play soccer. Manta has always pushed himself in soccer, and always sought out opportunities to play at a higher level. The decision to come to SLU and play at one of men’s soccer’s most storied programs was a nobrainer for the midfielder.

However, the beautiful game is not the John Cook senior’s only defining interest; his unique worldview, shaped by his parents’ and grandparents’ stories from when they lived outside the United States, have helped him start a business based on the exotic Korean pear.

Foreign fruits have been a part of Manta’s life from his early childhood. “I grew up with guava trees in my backyard,” he said. However, his interest in the Korean pear came directly from knowledge his parents picked up while in Asia.

The Korean pear is a crispy, sweet, and low-calorie fruit that can be eaten raw or used in a marinade, something that is done often in Korean cooking. However, Manta, after reading about the taste and health benefits of the fruit, looked for a Korean pear juice, and was shocked that he could not find one. He immediately set out to use the pear to make a fruit juice.

However, the road ahead had some speed bumps for Manta. “The taste was not suited for Western culture. My brother taste-tested my juice for me until I came up with the formula that is now Seoul Juice,” he said.

According to Manta, the juice also has some potential benefits that anyone 21 and over may be interested in. “The Korean pear, and the juice, help speed up the breakdown of poisonous substances in the body. I learned this after creating the product and found there has been quite a bit of research behind it. My friends have said it works for them as well,” he said.

At the moment, Manta is looking for a large-scale producer, which is quite a step up for Seoul Juice, which was once made in his parents’ kitchen. He even has some stores that are interested in selling the finished product, and he is currently talking to a food brokerage firm that is interested in spreading the product across the US. Manta expects the product to be in stores in early 2017.

According to Manta, some food companies have heard about Seoul Juice and have offered him jobs after graduation to work in the food industry. “I had no idea that making a juice with my mom’s blender would give me as many opportunities as it has, and I am very grateful to all those that have helped me along the way,” he added.

While Manta develops his juice idea and puts his plans into action, he will also be busy preparing for his upcoming soccer matches with SLU. You can catch the men’s team in action against conference opponent VCU on Sept. 24 at 7:30 p.m. for the annual homecoming game.