It was five years ago while they were trekking through India that inspiration struck. Ryan Slater and Zach Berman, best friends since childhood and co-owners of the Juice Truck, realized they wanted to open a juice business when they returned to Vancouver.
“The juicing culture over there is huge. In India, they [juice shops] are kind of like community gathering spaces, much like coffee shops in Vancouver. We were sort of amazed at how these little juice bars created connections and communities,” Slater told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “Our adventure then became to try as many juice bars as we could. We knew that there was this really cool aspect to juice that was unique—a mix between its health properties and how people come together around juice makes it exciting.”
Slater and Berman launched the Juice Truck in 2011. At the time, the mobile business (which is often found at the corner of Abbott and Water streets) was one of only a few companies that offered cold-pressed juice in Canada.
“The first three or four months, the knowledge of cold-pressed juice in Vancouver was minimal. The only people who understood it were those who had been to L.A. or New York, so for us it was purely about educating the public on what cold-pressed was and why it’s different to traditional juicing methods,” Slater said.
Cold-pressed juice is made by crushing fruits and vegetables in a hydraulic press. No heat is involved, which advocates believe helps the juice retain more of its nutrients, but because preservatives aren’t used, the beverage only stays fresh for about 72 hours.
“Cold-pressed is the buzzword right now,” Nick Lewis, who owns Krokodile Pear (1867 West 1st Avenue), tells the Straight at his Kitsilano juice bar. “What we do is shred our produce with knives, cutting it into a pulp, and then we press it with thousands of pounds of pressure on the juicing bag to extract the juice.
“Heat kills the nutrients in a sense, and then there’s the extreme heat, which is pasteurization, which is what you’ll find at the grocery store,” he continued.
Lewis, who launched Krokodile Pear last summer, drinks several 473-millilitre bottles of juice each day. His favourite at the store is Alouette, a blend of green vegetables such as kale, spinach, and celery, along with apple, pineapple, lime, and a concentrated blue-green algae called E3Live.
“There are three to five pounds of produce [used] per bottle because it’s so concentrated—that’s the advantage of juice,” Lewis explained. “Your body doesn’t need to break it down. There’s no fibre.…It’s easy to digest, and it’s literally liquid nutrition.”
For customers interested in taking their juice consumption to the next level, Krokodile Pear offers one-, three-, and five-day juice cleanses. At $60 per day, these involve drinking five cold-pressed juices and a bottle of nut milk each day.
“It’s all about nourishment, not starvation, when you’re on a cleanse. It’s not about trying to coast by on a minimal amount of calories to survive. It’s really about nourishing the body,” Lewis asserted. “The concept behind cleansing is that you’re overloading the body with nutrients so that the body allows itself time to detoxify.”
Ian Kuncoro, who co-owns the recently launched Vitae Juice with Andrée Natasaputra, is also a fan of juice cleanses. Vitae Juice works out of an East Vancouver commissary and delivers juice to people’s homes and offices.
“The biggest benefit to doing a cleanse is to give your digestive tract a break, especially for people who don’t eat a lot of greens and eat more oily foods and things that are processed,” Kuncoro explained by phone. “It also helps get rid of toxins.”
Vitae Juice has 15 flavours on the menu, from the refreshing Brisk Yellow (a combination of pineapple, apple, ginger, and mint) to the summery Mad Pink (grapefruit, lime, watermelon, and mint) and the milkshake-like Vanilla Almond (vanilla bean, almond, sea salt, dates, and filtered water).
“I drink two to three [473-millilitre] bottles a day,” Kuncoro claimed, adding that the salad-powered Spring Greens is his favourite. “Some of our clients drink four to five bottles a day as their breakfast, a bit of their lunch, and before they go to bed.”
Over at the Juice Truck, Slater estimated that they have sold 200,000 bottles of juice since 2011. On June 23, the company unveiled a 5,000-square-foot store (28 West 5th Avenue) that includes its production facility, a multipurpose space, and a juice bar.
“There’s a community space where our nutritionist does all her workshops and seminars, and we’ll do other events like long-table dinners,” Slater explained. “We thought it would be good to create a hub for health and wellness in the city. The juice bar in the front has an expanded breakfast and lunch menu as well.”
Lewis, who’s preparing to open a second Krokodile Pear location in Yaletown this summer, believes that even though the cold-pressed-juice industry has expanded quickly here over the past few years, there’s still plenty of room to grow.
“The demand for juice in the market is definitely increasing, and there’s enough room for all of us,” he said. “To me, we’re creating a new product category. A lot of people might write it off as a fad, but a lot of people also wrote $5 lattes off as a fad, and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere. I believe that juice, in its cold-pressed form, is where coffee was in the early ’80s. There’s a demand for it, and I think the need for true health and nutrition is only going to increase.”