Shortly after Chipper Pastron opened the first Juice Farm in Pasadena in January, a developer asked if he'd be interested in setting up another in the same neighborhood. No way, Pastron said, thinking there wouldn't be enough demand.
Six months in and he and his partners are negotiating a space "not very far from the first location" because the market for cold-pressed juice — the kind bottled fresh and made with ingredients such as kale, beets and burdock — is just that hot.
Cold-pressed juice makers — some small-time, many quickly growing — say they're selling what's "greener" (lots of kale and spinach), "hand-crafted" and more nutrient-packed than the big juice chains. And business is booming.
In Los Angeles, on a two-block stretch of West 3rd Street between Orlando and Sweetzer avenues, the juice bar Clover opened in March, Juice Served Here is about to debut and Joan's on Third last month started selling its own label of juices. Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice is another juice hot spot, with the new Kreation Juicery, the Juicebox truck, Pressed Juicery and the coming New York-based major leaguer BluePrint.
Raw food chef Matthew Kenney opened juice bar M.A.K.E. Out in Santa Monica in the spring. Silver Lake Juice has expanded to Los Feliz. And a store simply called the Juice opened in Atwater Village last week. L.A. is awash in juice. Now the question is how much more of it Angelenos can guzzle.
A lot, according to Pressed Juicery, which might be the biggest, juiciest L.A. success story thus far. The company started three years ago in a 22-square-foot storefront on San Vicente Boulevard in Brentwood. Now the company has 14 locations in California and expects to have 20 open by the end of the year.
Also in the works is a 40,000-square-foot production facility strategically located in Central California, with direct access to the agricultural area's produce, tons of which will be hydraulically squeezed into thousands of bottles of juice.
What's special about cold-pressed juice? It's not new (Beverly Hills Juice has been cold-pressing juice since 1975), but its popularity has grown exponentially in the last couple of years. The gist is that whatever's being juiced is pressed between plates rather than shredded by the blades of a centrifugal juicer; makers of cold-pressed juice say that the friction from the blades heats the juice, resulting in an accelerated loss of nutrients.
The cold-pressed contingent can be militant and will go so far as to call juice from anything but a press "cooked." But Brian Lee, owner of Sustain Juicery downtown, where juice is prepared with a variety of machines, says, "The amount of heat introduced into most vegetables is so little you're not losing a lot of enzymes. You're not cooking the produce, that's for sure."
At Juice Farm, General Manager Whitney Logudice's staff presses 20 to 60 pounds of fruit and vegetables at a time in a custom-built machine that applies 15,000 pounds of pressure to extract the juice out of apples, cucumbers, parsley, chard, you name it.
The machine grinds the produce (all 100% certified organic), shoots it into a woven bag, then squeezes the bag between two panels until liquid runs into a pan, through a filter and into a bucket. The pulp is removed from the bag, broken up and pressed again, and then again. It takes 20 pounds of parsley to yield half a gallon of juice. The juices are then blended (kale, dandelion, chard, parsley, celery, cucumber and lemon, for example) and bottled in glass to be displayed in a refrigerated case.
In an increasingly competitive market, every detail counts. Whether juice is served in glass or plastic bottles, how much of your produce is organic or local. All juice makers say it's healthful (or even "changes lives"), and some bandy the terms farm-to-cup or seed-to-juice.
And then there's the hipness factor. Beau Laughlin, the co-owner of Clover, says his juice company is lifestyle-oriented and sold 4,000 bottles of juice at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival this year. Clover aims to open another four locations in Los Angeles in the next four months and then expand outside of Los Angeles.
After all, there's still a lot of green money in green juice. Late last year, Hain Celestial bought BluePrint, which reportedly had sales of $20 million in 2012, for an undisclosed sum, and venture capital firms are pouring money into the cold-pressed sector like it's orange juice.
Cold-pressed juices cost as much as $12 for 12 ounces. When it opens on 3rd Street, Juice Served Here, co-owned by Alternative Apparel founder Greg Alterman, will sell a $20 juice called, simply, the $20 Juice. "It's crazy superfood creamy delicious awesomeness," says Director of Operations Danielle Charboneau, who wouldn't divulge the ingredients.
JuiceFarm's Pastron says he doesn't see cold-pressed juice as a trend or fad. "When you see so many people rush into the marketplace, it almost kind of dilutes its authenticity. But there's a real transition going on in the way people approach the food they eat. They're looking to improve their diet, and juicing is a way to do that."
Others are less sure. "I think it's a fad," said Sustain's Lee. "But I think it's going to be a very long fad compared to frozen yogurt stores."