Juice cleansing is hugely popular with annual sales of juice topping $30 million for one New York city juice bar. With so much choice when it comes to diet these days it seems mad that fruit and vegetable juice is making so many Americans dig into their wallets.
Compared to buying whole foods, cold pressed juices are significantly more expensive for the volume of fresh juice you end up with.
So why is cold pressed juice so expensive?
There are several reasons why juice cleanses are not a cheap solution. The pounds of produce to fresh juice ratio means lots of high quality produce is needed to produce your 16 ounce bottle. The raw juices have a short shelf life and high pressure is needed to extract all the goodness. Cold pressed juice is much more nutrient dense compared to your average cup of fruit juice and this difference comes with a premium.
WHAT IS COLD PRESSED JUICE?
Cold pressed juice is the process where the fruits and veggies are pressed in order to squeeze all the goodness out of their cells and into the 16 ounce bottle. These juices are sold as part of a “cleanse” or “detox” package. The idea is that you forgo eating for 1 day, 3 days or even up to 2 weeks in place of drinking these juices.
The juices provide you with just enough calories to stop you passing out and the high concentration of vitamins and minerals from the fruit is said to “flush out” your system and “remove toxins”. Whilst any solid scientific evidence is limited for these claims, many people anecdotally claim that juicing helps them lose weight and just generally feel better.
There are over 6000 juice bars in the USA and in the big cities like Los Angeles, there seems to be a juice bar on every block. Whilst juicing has taken a huge surge in popularity, the price tag for your typical juice cleanse averages around $10 for a 16 ounce bottle. Ouch.
On first glance these costs would appear way out of proportion for the product you end up with. There are some valid reasons why cold pressed juice is more expensive to produce compared to store bought fruit juices, and I’ll look into them now.
JUICER TYPES AND COST
When it comes to juicing fruits and veggies the first thing we need to consider is that a juicer needs to be purchased and maintained. There are so many variations out there and costs do vary a lot. As with most things, you get what you pay for. A juice bar that’s producing fresh juice every day is going to need high pressure processing to get through a lot of produce. That’s not going to come with a small price tag!
The masticating juicers are generally regarded as the more expensive option when it comes to at home juicers. They use special grinders to kind of “chew up” the fruit or veggies before extracting the juice under pressure. This process frees up a lot more of the essential goodness from the fruit and veg so it can end up in your bottle of juice.
The centrifugal juicers work by using a rotating blade to finely chop the produce (similar to making a smoothie) before it separates the juice from the pulp using a fast spinning mechanism. Due to this mechanism you end up with less juice per pound of fruit used as well a lower overall volume of juice per cycle. This is why these are less commonly used in juice bars and more commonly found in domestic kitchens. More on the differences here.
COLD PRESS JUICER
This is the best quality juicer on the market and this is what most juice companies will invest in. The cold press juicer roughly chops the whole fruits and then, using a hydraulic press, it slowly extracts all the juice under thousands of pounds of pressure. This high pressure processing extracts all the health benefits in the fruit and veg without compromising it at all. These machines are by far the most expensive option so juice shops need to fork out a fair bit to get started.
FRUIT AND VEG COSTS/QUANTITY
Fruit and veg can vary a lot in price depending on where you are located and also the season. As with all fresh produce, it spoils fairly quickly so can’t be bought in bulk and stored for later use. Where organic produce is used this adds to the juice cost as well. Whole foods are packed with health benefits but the price tag often reflects this.
A lot of mass produced fruit juice uses fairly cheap and poor quality produce that is unfit to be sold a fresh fruit and veggies (ie not ripe, bruised etc). They add sugar or sweeteners to balance the flavors and stabilisers to get a nice texture. This helps reduce production costs dramatically so the companies profit margins go up.
Another factor with juice costs is whether or not pasteurization is used. Raw juice is the state where the juice is most nutritious but it is probe to spoiling if not consumed quickly. Mass produced fruit juice is almost always pasteurized so it lasts a long time post bottling.
If the juicery decides not to pasteurize the cold pressed juice then any that isn’t sold has to be thrown away fairly rapidly. This short shelf-life also adds to the over-all costs of your juice cleanse.
OTHER BRAND JUICES COMPARISON
It seems strange that brands like Tropicana can sell orange juice at the grocery store for around 5 cents per fluid ounce whereas cold pressed green juice from Suja will set you back closer to 23 cents. That’s almost 5 times as expensive!
Tropicana will use a large tanks to store the juice away from oxygen to keep it from going off. This means that the goodness found in the oranges will slowly dissipate over time and by the time the carton reaches your fridge it has very little goodness from the actual fruit left in it.
To delicately extract all the available juice from a mix of fresh fruit and veggies you need an expensive machine and slow processing and the juice needs to be consumed rapidly. Cold pressed juice packs way more pounds of produce into each bottle when compared to Tropicana orange juice so you essentially get more goodness per bottle.
IT’S FASHION, BABY
Finally, the last point to mention is that juice cleansing is popular. Lots of A-listed celebrities (such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Gwen Stefani) have been spotted clutching their cold pressed juices or spoken out about how good juice cleansing makes them feel.
Anything that features under the celebrity spot-light automatically sparks interest amongst the general population and this is another reason why juice bars can get away with inflating prices. As with any sales tactic, if people are willing to pay more why would you charge less?
Cold pressed juice needs high pressure, specialized equipment and needs to be produced and sold in a short period of time otherwise it spoils. The higher nutrient content of cold-pressed juice makes it a slightly more premium product compared with mass-produced fruit juice. There’s loads of reasons why juicing is expensive, from genuine production costs to popularity tax. In the end though, it’s up to you to decide if the financial cost is worth the potential benefits when it comes to your next juice cleanse.