toronto juice bars

How Toronto's cold-pressed juice bars stay in the green

Is Toronto's cold-pressed juice market saturated? It might seem like it with numerous trendy, glass-ensconced juiceries popping up and then closing in the city.

This year, for instance, we lost Union Juice's two locations (which did juice, but not cold-pressed) as well as The Only Cafe's The Other Juice Bar on the Danforth. But juice companies that are in it for the long-haul seem to think there's room for everyone.

Fresh, for instance, sees its cold-pressed juice program as part of its overall healthy eating brand. Business manager and partner Barry Alper tells me cold-pressed makes up just 15 per cent of its juice business - the rest comes from Fresh's freshly squeezed juices and smoothies.

But he thinks the proliferation of cold-pressed juiceries across Toronto is helping Fresh's sales. "It's on everybody's mind. It's all over the place, so it's good for us," he says.

Fresh, however, is lucky because juice is just one tiny part of its business. Its multiple locations focus on serving brunch, lunch and dinner for those dining in and doing takeout. The local mini-chain also sells its juice wholesale to places like Dark Horse Espresso Bar and the Ritz Carlton.

So what about companies that do juice and juice alone? A group of friends started Toronto's Greenhouse Juice Co. after they started drinking cold-pressed juice while living abroad in cities such as New York and Los Angeles.

They founded Greenhouse in January 2014 out of a tiny storefront on Macpherson Avenue in Rosedale and thought it would just chug along as a cute little side business. But Greenhouse grew quickly.

Today, it has 10 locations, with six more in the works for places like Union Station and the incoming Saks Food Hall across from the Eaton Centre.

Though instead of opening up standalone stores, Greenhouse likes to partner with other businesses. "Finding a storefront that's small enough for us is tricky so we love to go in with friends and see if we can create something unique," says Emma Knight, Greenhouse's director of brand and marketing.

I meet with Emma over green juice at her company's First Canadian Place outpost. This location is attached to iQ Food Co., a match made in healthy food heaven. More recently, Greenhouse opened with Crown Flora in West Queen West.

But its most fruitful partnership might be with Pusateri's. The juice brand operates a store within a store at certain Pustari's locations, including in Oakville and Yorkville. Greenhouse is even coming out with its own cookbook via Penguin Random House Canada next spring.

Yet, Emma realizes it's not an easy industry to be in. Customers, for instance, sometimes get sticker shock when they see a $10 beverage. But cold-pressed juice is expensive to make and margins are small.

"The business model is really hard because you're dealing with huge volumes, in our case, of 100 per cent organic produce," she says. And she understands why some juice brands can't make it. "It takes some serious gumption to still be in the game."

Like Greehouse, the Village Juicery started as a small local company, but has since expanded to multiple locations, which serve food as well as juice. Village Juicery also sells its products at cafes and restaurants throughout the city.

Cold-pressed juice might be a fad like cupcakes and frozen yogurt. But devotees seem pumped about downing bottles of multi-coloured juice and elixirs - and there are plenty of companies to feed their health-conscious appetites.

But for those like The Only who are getting out of the juicing business, the next food trend is always around the corner - its juice bar will soon be reborn as what else, but a taco bar.

Photo by Hector Vasquez.

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