The healthy food world has officially taken back "juice," so that the word no longer means pasteurized, color-enhanced, all-sugar Tropicana.
But as the better-for-you juice industry explodes, companies making cold-pressed, vegetable-packed, bottled blends are no longer just making distinctions between themselves and their old-school counterparts sold in cartons. They're splitting themselves into two categories: those who HPP, and those who don't.
What the heck is HPP and why should you care?
High Pressure Processing (also called High Pressure Pascalization and sometimes High Pressure Pasteurization) uses pressure to make juice last longer, and how a juice is made and treated can affect how nutritious it really is. We've broken down the need-to-know facts, so you can make your own informed decision—whether you're grabbing a Suja at Whole Foods or are a Juice Generation or Kreation Juice regular.
How does HPP work?
HPP kills potentially harmful pathogens by applying intense pressure to already packaged products (in this case, cold-pressed already bottled juices).
Mainstream juices (like Juicy Juice, say) are pasteurized using heat, which also kills many of the nutrients and live enzymes that make fruit and veggie juices nutritious. HPP is said not to do this because there's no heat, but purists argue if you're treating it at all, it's not fresh. Most research to-date shows there is little to no change in the nutrient quality, but that research has been extremely limited, and some small studies have shown changes to nutrients (more on this, here).
Do companies have to HPP?
If companies sell juices in their own stores or juice bars, they are not required to treat it at all. However, if they sell it elsewhere, they are, according to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. The one exception to this rule, it seems, are the many brands selling their juices out of fitness studios and indie coffee shops. "We stock those fridges. They are an extension of us,” says Danielle Charboneau, director of operations at Los Angeles-based Juice Served Here, in explanation.
With the mega growth of raw, cold-pressed juices, though, many industry insiders have reported that stricter rules governing how juice is treated could be in the works. These include increased health department visits in New York City to chatter about possible legislation in California that would affect distribution and monitor shelf life.
How prevalent is HPP?
For now, one simple takeaway is that if you see a juice in a grocery store, you can assume it's been treated in some way, either with pasteurization or HPP. But government requirements are not the only reason brands are doing it.
Annie Lawless, co-founder of San Diego-based Suja, says her company found that HPP was the safest and best way to scale, which is why you can buy the Twelve Essentials and Lemon Love anywhere from San Francisco to Miami.
"When we began our home delivery service in San Diego, our cold-pressed juices only had a three to four day shelf life," Lawless says. "As our home delivery business picked up, we saw growth potential and wanted a way to produce on a larger scale, allowing more customers to safely purchase through various retail channels, like Whole Foods.”
HPP was the answer—it can extend the shelf life of a juice ten-fold, after all—and soon brands like BluePrint, Evolution Fresh, and Love Grace started using it, too. (Pressed Juicery, by the way, doesn't publicly state whether it uses HPP and a representative told us it was "proprietary information that we don’t release.")
So, who's against HPP?
Many of the smaller juice brands that are more focused on city storefronts than national rollouts—like Juice Press, Liquiteria, and Juice Generation in New York, and Kreation Juice and Clover in LA—are vocally opposed to using HPP to extend shelf-life, arguing that if juice is not freshly made, it will not have the same healthy benefits (like live enzymes).
"One of the main things that I like to educate people on is that just because you see it in Whole Foods and it has a seal that says it's raw, it doesn’t mean it’s fresh. Those are sitting for up to 30 days," says Juice Generation founder Eric Helms. (In fact, both Suja and BluePrint have faced lawsuits for labeling juices treated with HPP "raw.")
And Juice Press founder-evangelist Marcus Antebi is perhaps the most passionately opposed to HPP—the company has a section on their website explaining why they don't use the process called “The Death of Fresh Juice" and every bottle's label tells the customer the juice hasn't been HPP'd.
While the aforementioned brands battle over juice freshness, other companies have chosen to straddle both sides of the HPP line carefully. Organic Avenue has chosen to deal with its growth by using HPP on shipped juices but keeping in-store bottles raw. “Now that we are shipping nationally, we have less control over the variables that would potentially harm our juices,” says Jessie Gould, Organic Avenue’s vice president of marketing.
Juice Served Here doesn't HPP its juices, but is staying open to compromise. “We all love raw juice, that’s the reason this company was built. At the same time, pressurized juice still has lots of nutritional benefits,” Charboneau says.
And there's probably enough room in the booming market for both camps to thrive, leaving consumers to choose. After all, it's kind of nice being able to pick up a Juici Elixir at Laguardia Airport, but there’s also nothing like kale-apple-lemon straight out of the juicer. —Molly Gallagher
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