Juicing is a big business with dozens of companies vying for a corner of this booming market. Where most rely on heat treating produce and packing their juices with grams upon grams of sugar, Forager Project has taken a different route. With ingredients such as apples, cucumbers, kale and sweet potatoes—to more unusual additions like turmeric, balsamic vinegar, matcha and dandelion root—it’s clear the company was founded by food enthusiasts. Forager Project uses only organic, non-GMO produce in its vegetable-focused juices, helping ensure each bottle is dense in nutrients rather than sugar. An average of two pounds of fresh, cold-pressed produce goes into each bottle, as well as live enzymes, amino acids, minerals and vitamins.
Ethical Foods spoke with Maude Manuokian of Forager Project about what separates the company from other big name producers and the concept of “fast slow food.”
What is cold press juicing?
Cold press juicing involves grinding or masticating ingredients, then applying thousands of pounds of pressure to extract the most juice with the highest nutritional value possible. All this is done without the use of heat, which can degrade the nutritional density of the ingredients. Also, we believe—and people often comment—that cold pressed juices taste better.
It seems like new juice companies are sprouting up all the time. Why do you think cold press juicing in particular has suddenly become so popular?
Consumers continue to become savvier about the products they choose. More and more people are looking for real food options that are healthy as well as delicious and convenient. Juices offer a great option for those looking for easy and accessible nutrition, but it’s important to remember that source matters. Not all juices are equal.
How does Forager Project differentiate itself?
Our motto is ‘Think Before You Drink.’ We are all about encouraging balanced and healthy food choices. Checking the nutrition facts panel (NFP) is essential to making sure your choice is a good one. The NFP is where you get the real deal about what you are consuming. Many products claim to be healthy, but are riddled with sugar, sodium and fat and provide little real nutritive value. We use our knowledge of food and technology to create products that provide real nutrition. Our veggie blends are vegetables first, rather than being fruit forward. Our nut drinks are designed to provide a great tasting alternative milk experience using unfiltered nuts, delivering a more ‘whole food’ product. This is different from a lot of nut milk products, which are heavily processed making them essentially nut-flavored water.
What is high pressure pasteurization (HPP)? How does it affect a juice’s nutritional value and why is it superior to heat-treating?
HPP is a process that uses very intense pressure rather than heat to protect and preserve foods. Juices that have been subjected to heat processing just don’t have the same vibrant flavor, and there’s a lot of research that shows the nutritional integrity is better with HPP foods.
In terms of health benefits, how do Forager Project juices compare to simply eating whole fruits, vegetables and nuts?
We are food enthusiasts and we know and value the importance of whole fruits, vegetables and nuts in terms of overall wellness. We don’t see our products as a substitute for these items. Rather, we see our products as a really great component of a healthy lifestyle—and Forager has the benefit of being quick and convenient.
How do you source your all-organic ingredients and ensure Forager Project juices are GMO-free?
We have an extremely experienced production manager named Ted Leaman. Ted has worked very hard to develop strong relationships with both local and global growers. One of our major growing partners is ALBA Organics out of Salinas, Calif. ALBA isn’t just a supplier of organic produce they are a wonderful farm association dedicated to the whole of organic and sustainable food production. We are very proud to be partnered with them.
In addition to these types of grower relationships, Forager products are all reviewed by CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers), a third party organic certification organization, to ensure that they meet the organic guidelines. These guidelines don’t allow GMOs. We have also been working with the Non GMO Project to obtain their certification. In fact, most of our products have already made it through the rigorous certification process. We expect the remaining items to be certified shortly and then we will most likely add the Non GMO Project icon to our packaging to give consumers that extra confidence in our products.
The sticker price on many cold pressed juices can be a barrier for many potential customers. Why do cold pressed juices generally cost so much more than conventional juices?
Cold pressed juice contains a whole lot of produce compared to standard juices. Cold pressing literally squeezes out more from the raw ingredients than other methods of juicing. The equipment, ingredient costs and labor entailed are substantial and these costs are reflected in the product cost. But, it’s important to think about what you’re really getting from one bottle of Forager. There’s a lot of food and work that goes into every bottle. If you were to go out and pay for the produce or nuts, clean and prep your ingredients, spend time developing great flavor and nutritional combinations, purchase the equipment to process your ingredients, clean up after your juice, etc.—you quickly see the value of the product.
Having spent time developing Odwalla before selling the company, what did that experience teach you?
Several members of our team worked at Odwalla and it has provided a strong understanding of the industry. We have a lot of knowledge about how to make healthy, on-the-go products. Bringing this type of product to people is no joke! It is a tough business, but we are all very passionate about providing ingredients and foods people should be consuming but often don’t because of lifestyle. Also, Stephen Williamson, Forager’s CEO, wanted to focus on creating products that had less sugar. This is a real challenge in the world of juice, but with our knowledge and experience we felt we could provide better options that would still have a broad appeal.
Forager Project juices are often described as “fast slow food.” Can you expand on this concept?
Fast slow food means food that is made from real ingredients, is easy and convenient. Our products are actually very similar to something you could make at home, but don’t have the time, tools or passion to make.
Why do you feel Forager Project juices have become so popular among distance runners, cyclists and other athletes?
We’ve definitely noticed that more athletes are looking for ‘real’ food products to fuel their performance and Forager is a great fit for these folks. Our products are made with ingredients that are highly digestible and provide nutrition that is easily absorbable—food characteristics that are essential for athletes.
What inspired the name Forager Project?
We believe that all people should actively seek out foods that will truly nourish the body, mind and spirit. Foraging is ‘the act of looking or searching for food or provisions.’ We feel passionate and privileged to seek, create and share products that deliver meaningful natural and organic food in a convenient way.
Juice cleansing has become popular in recent years. Can consumers use Forager Project juices to support cleansing efforts?
With the growing health issues that face our population, health and wellness has definitely become a major societal concern and focus. People are seeking ways to improve their health. Cleansing is one approach that has seeped into mainstream culture and some people have seen some real benefits when incorporating a cleansing regimen into their routine. Forager products can definitely be used as part of a cleansing regimen, but, honestly, cleansing is not really part of our company’s focus. We think of ourselves as providing a healthy food option and are much more interested in being a part of people’s everyday healthy lifestyle.
Forager Project website