When I was a girl, my mother pressed oranges into juice by hand and I nibbled the mashed fruit remains. Tropicana OJ and Mott’s apple juice was what I poured my own children, never imagining how little nutritional value was left nor how much sugar was added, not to mention the dreaded preservatives.
These days, we know better, and juices, even in the markets, are not what they used to be. They have beets and carrots, kale and spinach, bee pollen or flax seeds, blended with all sorts of fruits and other nutritious ingredients. Thus, the rise of fresh juice bars is no surprise, and the local competition is heating up.
Demand will lead the competition, according to Laguna Beach restaurateur Chris Keller, an avid juicer who plans to open Juice and Shakes in December, a former Haagen Dazs shop near the downtown movie theater.
Nekter Juice Bar, on Broadway Street, has been ahead of the pack, opening in three years in almost every coastal town from Los Angeles to La Jolla. Owners Steve and Alexis Shulze claim their juices are “from the earth to your glass.” Glossy menus offer a variety of fruit and vegetable mixtures, smoothies made with nut milks or coconut water, and acai bowls, another hot trend in health-foods, and they offer packages comprised of six daily doses of “15 pounds of cold-pressed fruits and vegetables” meant to detoxify the system from the plethora of processed and junk foods we consume.
In contrast, Living Juice, in a tiny space on Forest Avenue, seems the David to the Nekter Goliath. Founded by former NYC and Newport businesswoman, Jamie Jensen, simple brochures explain the health benefits of juices and cite relationships with wellness practitioners. This menu promises raw, organic, cold-pressed juices created to maximize essential nutrients, with an emphasis on juice cleanses.
Cold-pressing extracts the maximum juice content in temperatures so low the juice remains potent longer – as much as four days if refrigerated. Jensen contends that cold-pressing organic ingredients results in a higher level of vitamins and minerals, and is also more environmentally friendly, using less energy to produce.
Because cold-pressing takes time, Marion Keegan, owner of Art of Fitness on Coast Highway, hopes the clients of her juice bar will order on their way to their fitness regimen and pick-up fresh product on the way out. This menu will focus on seasonal ingredients and a nutritionist will be available to consult with clients to create a detox plan best suited to their palettes. The Art of Fitness juice bar is slated to open by Thanksgiving.
Keller’s Juice and Shakes will also offer acai bowls, and will utilize organic ingredients and the cold-press process, and he says his dairy-free shakes are more like old-fashioned shakes than smoothies.
Before any of these storefronts showed up, Whole Foods, and its predecessor, Wild Oats, produced fresh juices with the optional add-ins that most juice bars offer – proteins, fibers, and energy and immunity boosters. Smoothies are also offered there, as well as several locations in town, using yogurt as a base and not always organic.
By the way, for a few hundred dollars to more than a thousand dollars, you can buy a juicer to use at home. No cold-pressing, so you’ll have to drink up fresh product. The sorbet-like colors and scents are great in your favorite glass, and these machines also make good soups. In town, juice bars are an alternative that might be here to stay, until the next best thing comes along.
Randy Kraft is a freelance writer who previously covered the city for the Indy and pens the OC BookBlog for www.ocinsite.com or