The Cold Press

NYC Juice Wars: Everybody Get Your Juice On

In a great article published last week, Molly Friedman of the NY Daily News looks at NYC's exploding raw juice industry and the philosophical battles currently being fought there over purity and process. Let's take a look at some of the highlights:

Up for debate is what's fresh, what's healthy and whether the trendy drinks — which small-batch juice entrepreneurs sell at posh shops and high-end supermarkets for as much as $13 for a 17-ounce container — can really be "farm-to-bottle."

"Farm-to-bottle" is such a meaningless (and often incredibly misleading) juice campaign slogan, and we hope somebody rips it apart at some point in this article. (SPOILER ALERT: Somebody does.)

“What the other juice companies are doing is they’re creating juice with no soul,” says Juice Press CEO and founder Marcus Antebi.

There really isn't any context (yet) for this quote from Mr. Antebi, but it's worth highlighting anyway. We've mentioned Juice Press before because, when we're in NYC and out of our own stuff, that's where we go for juice.

At least a dozen startups are vying for health-conscious customers in a war that’s more ideological than the short-lived, sugar-packed conflict between Snapple and Fruitopia.

Remember when we thought we were doing our bodies a favor by popping open a bottle of Snapple?

In this battle, winning a spot on the shelves at Whole Foods, alongside the Coca-Cola Co.-owned Odwalla or the Pepsi-co-owned Naked Juice, can be considered a defeat.

Remember when we thought we were doing our bodies a favor by popping open a bottle of Odwalla or Naked?

"At Whole Foods, the juices that are on the shelves claim a three-week shelf life," adds Neka Pasquale of San Francisco’s Urban Remedy. "You might want to question how fresh [it is] and how many nutrients are in there."

Ms. Pasquale is referring to brands like BluePrint that pressure-treat their juices in order to get them on grocery store shelves (treated BluePrint juices are available at C'ville Whole Foods for $10-12 bottle). This is the same point we often make: Even if pressure treatment itself has NO effect on the juice (which is still up for debate), time unquestionably does have an effect of the juice. Three days (or less) is better than three weeks, every time.

Getting on supermarket shelves requires pasteurization or high-pressure processing — a simmering dispute among juicing purists.

What kind of governmental agency would allow grocery store shelves to be lined with products that are literally killing the people who eat them, while prohibiting fresh, raw, unadulterated fruit and vegetable juice from sharing those shelves? More on this incredible bit of FDA nonsense in a future post.

Pasteurization kills pathogens with heat while high-pressure processing does the same with force, but die-hard freshaholics say any juice green-lit for grocery stores is missing vital nutrients and enzymes.

Consider us "die-hard freshaholics" in that case.

"This is the safest way get raw juice into customers’ hands," said Zoe Sakoutis, whose brand BluePrint can keep its drinks — including its coveted veggie-packed green juice ($11 per bottle at Whole Foods) — on shelves for about 21 days, thanks to high-pressure processing.

If safety is your greatest concern when it comes to juice, go grab a Snapple and call it a day, but we suggest you don't spend $11 on a juice that's been dead for 2 weeks...

Such brewing methods make storage and distribution easier, expanding a product’s reach.

... because expanded reach (and increased profit) is really what's at issue here, not safety.

"You kill off live enzymes and significantly reduce the nutrition of the juice," said Ross Franklin, founder of the East Village’s Liquiteria. "It’s a lifeless, dead juice."

Bingo, Mr. Franklin.

Some juice companies — including Urban Remedy and Organic Avenue — have taken to calling their mixes "farm-to-bottle," in a bid to make products sound as fresh as possible. It implies their drinks never sit around in freezers or warehouses. But rivals aren’t buying the bucolic branding one bit.

The reason we aren't buying the branding one bit is that NO self-respecting raw juice company would EVER let their drinks sit around in freezers or warehouses. So what are these "farm-to-bottle" companies trying to say... that there's a farm in NYC that grows all the produce they use in their juices?

"'Farm-to-bottle' is highly unlikely in New York," said Jamie Graber of Gingersnap’s Organic in the East Village. "Anyone who’s claiming they are local in New York, I would love to see where that farm is."

We would too.

If our positions on any of these hotly debated issues are still unclear, check out our Wellness and About/FAQs pages to learn where we stand. For now, just remember that we never heat, treat, or add anything to our juice. Ever.

We'll leave you with this final thought:

In this industry, a bid to expand beyond the underground scene of unadulterated-juice drinkers is met with animosity or contempt — at least based on the reaction many juicers had when Organic Avenue’s revered founder, Denise Mari, gave the reins of her formerly boutique brand to new, nonvegan CEO Martin Bates. "They’ll have a tuna fish sandwich," says Juice Press’ increasingly incensed Antebi, who fears Bates will cater to less-dedicated "flexitarians" by expanding Organic Avenue’s offerings beyond juice. "People will want Kit-Kat bars. They’ll no longer represent the glossy, sexy brand that they were five years ago, before Juice Press smothered them. I actually waterboarded them with green juice."

Quite a battle, indeed.

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