Eric Helms is hoarding superfruit (again)

The Juice Generation founder is obsessed with finding and creating buzz about new superfruits. This time it's all about aronia berries.
Aronia berry smoothie Juice Generation
Ingredient Influencer Eric Helms of Juice Generation enjoys finding and creating buzz about new superfruits. This time it’s all about aronia berries. (Photos: Well+Good, left; Juice Generation)


New York City’s superfruit sourcer-er is at it again.

Back in 2012, Eric Helms, founder of Juice Generation, scored a year-long exclusive on the vitamin-C-loaded Central American fruit called pitaya, which he essentially introduced to Manhattan. Now he’s found another smoothie-worthy superfruit—the tart and antioxidant-rich aronia berry, which just made its delish debut on his menus.

Helms’s obsession for finding the next, new nutrient-packed smoothie ingredient is a boon for green-drink-loving mavens who get a rush from sipping on up-and-coming superfruits, a la editors spotting the next trend at New York Fashion Week.

But he admittedly enjoys the chase, generating buzz—and he doesn’t mind doing the farm work, if that’s what’s necessary. In this case it was: Through Juice Generation Helms purchased an entire aronia berry crop (200,000 pounds to be exact) and the company harvested it themselves at a farm in Nebraska.

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Helms on a tractor in Nebraska. (Photo: Juice Generation)

What drew Helms to the fruit, he says, was its antioxidant potency—it’s two-to-four times that of acai berries, blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, and goji berries, according to USDA studies. The berries are also great pre-workout—research shows that athletes who sipped on aronia berry juice had less oxidative stress (or cell damage) up to 24 hours post-sweat sesh.

Helms was also attracted to Aronia’s roots—it’s native to the American Midwest, unlike superfood cousins acai (Brazil) and goji (Asia). “When most people think of a superfruit they think of some far away place. I really like that this fruit is from the U.S.,” Helms says. “This is really farm to glass.”

And specifically, the Aronia All-Star Smoothie at Juice Generation—and for the time being, you’ll only find it here in New York. Helms has the semi-exclusive on this superfruit for the next year and he’s taken every measure to ensure that he keeps you in supply for the coming months. He’s storing the crop the same way he did with pitaya—in a 25,000-square-foot warehouse in Pennsylvania.

As for the berry’s tart taste, Juice Generation customers aren’t veering away (fun fact: aronia is nicknamed the chokeberry). “People have been very into it,” says Helms—and we’d agree that after blending it with other ingredients, its slightly sharp taste is actually pretty appealing.

Fans are now sending the juice maestro requests, asking him to make aronia berry breakfast bowls, and even ordering it in place of tried-and-true blueberries. May the best berry win. —Molly Gallagher

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