Food startups: Does it make sense to buy pricey packaged juices?

By: |
August 28, 2016 6:01 AM

Many food start-ups today claim to offer ‘fresh’ fruit juice. But does it really make sense to buy these expensive packaged juices when you could just hop over to your local juice-wallahs?

From fruit to glass or, in this case, into a small plastic bottle. It was packed well and the label proudly declared its freshness quotient. (Representative image : Reuters)From fruit to glass or, in this case, into a small plastic bottle. It was packed well and the label proudly declared its freshness quotient. (Representative image : Reuters)

WINE IS best when old and water is best when fresh, so goes the old adage. But what about fruit juices, the middle ground?

Yes, it sounds like a lame thing to read about on a Sunday morning, but if you are tuned into my column, you are clearly grasping for straws here. I blame the 160-character universe, which has ironically left brevity deprived of any wit, but that is a rant for another day.

Recently, I received a pack of fresh juices—not ‘three-month-old’ fresh or ‘can-stay-fresh-for-months-after-opening’ fresh, but fresh as the word was intended to mean.

From fruit to glass or, in this case, into a small plastic bottle. It was packed well and the label proudly declared its freshness quotient. Then there were the ingredients—only two were ‘unimaginatively’ single-fruit juices—which read like a list of every fruit in every orchard in a 10-km radius.

There were things I have never put in my juice, or food, ever. Chia seeds, for one. I wouldn’t know them if I slipped on them. Kale to me is something that induces a mild gag reflex when I think of it in a juice… you get the gist.

And all this was floating about in the fresh fruity blended goodness of beetroot, carrots, apples, pomegranates, oranges… you name it.

And they tasted delish, I mean delicious—brevity is ruining language now. I could have easily drunk a few pints’ worth. But before I write off the local juice-wallah, I had to launch a million questions at said purveyors of business.

Could they manage to stay fresh compared to the guy around the corner who, save for the hygiene bit at times, was ever ready and efficient with a concoction of our choice? Could they deliver to far-flung places where the juice would be most relevant, as the further I go from home, the more questionable the hygiene issue becomes? And how would it remain fresh in a 24×7 petrol pump outlet two weeks hereon?

Well, Raw Pressery stepped up and, pardon the pun, gave me a taste of their business vision. They are already present across eight cities and at 700 sales outlets.

The process they use—cold-press technology and high-pressure Pascalisation (a sterilisation process, which, through high pressure, inactivates enzymes and micro-organisms, thereby preserving the food product)—ensures a long shelf life and freshness. Furthermore, they also organise by integrating backwards and forwards.

So not only do they control the crop quality, but also how the juices are stored. Sure, there are bound to be seasonal differences, but isn’t that precisely why one would want hand-pressed over processed? Chemical-free, sugar-free, preservative-free and concentrate-free are any day preferable over standardised odd-tasting cartons masquerading as fresh fruit juices that currently line our shelves.

But in spite of all this ‘free’dom, it was quaintly ironic that they cost an absolute bomb. At R150 for a bottle that I could almost entirely envelope in my palms, this was clearly expensive. Almost more expensive than my wine and single malts, and those are equally healthy if not more—the pleasure one derives from a good dram or pour at the end of a tough urban day is not one for fruit juices.

The monthly subscription plan from Raw Pressery brings the cost down a bit, but it still is for that 0.001% of people who can afford to hire a personal juice butler and, just for kicks, make him stomp on fruits in a vat all day to get juice.

Juice Up is a similar service and a bit cheaper. Between the two, you could draw an entire fruit chart of every conceivable fruit that’s ever been juiced. And this is not even an exaggeration.

I wish them all success, but I wish myself more success if only to be able to nonchalantly afford them in the near future on a daily basis. Till then, it is fresh tender coconut from the local cart for me. Or Bourbon!

The writer is a sommelier

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