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US: The rush toward cold-pressed juices

For a symbol of how quickly the juice business has changed in the United States, just look in the bottling room at the BluePrint factory in Long Island City, Queens.

Not far from a conveyor belt and vats of bright nectar that has been freshly extracted from beets, you will see a Norwalk juicer about the size of a toaster oven. Seven years ago, in a catering kitchen in Chelsea, Zoë Sakoutis and Erica Huss hatched BluePrint with nothing more than that humble appliance.

They still keep it around, and if it is supposed to be a good-luck charm, consider it effective. Today Sakoutis and Huss, both in their 30s, have two factories (the other is in Los Angeles), scores of employees and a multimillion-dollar partnership forged in December with the Hain Celestial Group. You can find transparent bottles of BluePrint at Whole Foods or that sandwich shop around the corner, and the company is grossing more than $20 million a year. (Its juices retail at around $12 per bottle).

Half a decade ago, most people who were found guzzling and gushing about juice — not grocery store OJ, but the dense, cold-pressed stuff that is made by pulverising mounds of ingredients like kale, beets, ginger, spinach and kohlrabi — were either zealots from the raw-food fringe or Hollywood celebrities who believed that a “juice cleanse” would nudge their toned bodies even closer to radiant perfection.

But along the way, more people started drinking it. And for consumers and entrepreneurs, a realization took hold: juice did not have to be part of a challenging, expensive cleanse. It could simply be lunch. Suddenly, cold-pressed juice moved from curiosity to an industry.

Starbucks has acquired its own line, Evolution Fresh. Danny Meyer, the force behind Shake Shack and restaurants like Union Square Cafe, has developed Creative Juice, to be sold in some Equinox gyms and stand-alone shops. In New York, big-name investors are pouring cash into local chains like Organic Avenue, which has nine stores that it wants to double within 18 months, and Juice Press, which has 9 shops and plans to open another 10 by the end of 2014.

The money that companies have thrown around, as Hain did in buying BluePrint, has stirred up an entrepreneurial gold rush. Could premium juice conquer America the way premium coffee has? Venture capitalists are counting on it.

“We’re talking some serious dollar signs here,” said Danielle Charboneau, 29, who in 2010 started Juice Maids, a delivery service in Los Angeles that she merged early this year with Juice Served Here, a forthcoming chain of shops. “That’s why everyone is getting into the juice business, because in five years they want to sell the business for a hundred million bucks.”

The scramble has some of the mood that surrounded the dot-com start-ups in the 1990s. And while many of the prospectors huddled around this thick, algae-hued revenue stream have a wholesome epidermal glow, they can be as fiercely competitive as any Silicon Valley programming shark…..

New York Times: Read more

How BluePrint designed a better way to sell juice

BluePrint sold $20 million in juices and nut bars last yearcan be traced in large part to the way it communicates with customers about how the juice ‘cleanse’ works…..