Kareema Batal and her co-founder Ala Attallah grew up in Jerusalem and she said fresh-pressed juice was part of their culture.
“We used to consume it every day on the way to school, on the way back from school. There was a local juicer in Jerusalem that’s been around for generations,” Batal said.
“And so, when we learned about cold-pressed juice in the West, we really attached to that as something that it feels like home for us.”
The duo opened a small market in Sherwood Park, east of Edmonton, back in 2015. It was there they were introduced to cold-pressed juice. They eventually closed that business down, but still had a taste for cold-pressed juice.
In 2017, they launched Edmonton-based Neo Juicery.
They’re dedicated to providing nutritious cold-pressed juice for Edmonton-area customers.
“We were like, ‘oh we didn’t get enough of this how can we do this differently, what can we learn from our previous experience,’” Batal said.
Batal is a food scientist with a degree from the University of Alberta.
She said the nutritional value of cold-pressed juice is substantial. Most of the store-bought juice is pasteurized so it will last longer on shelves.
“When they do that, that destroys any natural enzymes that are in the fruit or vegetable juice,” she said.
“It sterilizes it for protection purposes, but it also destroys the proteins, it destroys the nutrients.”
Because the enzymes are all intact in a fresh, cold-pressed juice, it’s a living food. She said it’s nourishing the body in a way we’re just not used to in the west.
Further, the way the juice is produced (masticating) it shreds and crushes the fruits and vegetables. Batal said this opens up the plants’ cell walls, releasing the nutrients into the juice.
One 500ml bottle will take five or six pounds of produce to create.
“It’s not an amount of greens that you can consume in a sitting,” she said.
“And so, you get this concentrated form of nutrition, that is fresh, it hasn’t been pasteurized or heat-treated in any way.”
Plus, they use organic fruits and veggies – locally sourced where possible. They also save the crushed pulps for use in other foods.
Moving ahead with a new facility
Batal said they went into the Alberta Yield program not really thinking about their position in the market.
That was something they knew they wanted to change. But they’re on a growth trajectory.
Batal said they started off in 2017 with a tiny Norwalk juicer and hand chopping the vegetables. They have glass-bottle, old-milkman delivery style for that personal touch.
“In 2019, we’re kind of bursting through the seams here we need help, like in terms of production because it’s so labour-intensive,” she said.
They kept pitching the cold-pressed juicing and landed an investor that helped them jump up to the next level with a new kitchen and a commercial juicer.
They built a new facility right in the middle of COVID-19. It was completed last year.
“We’ve taken a big step in the last year,” she said.
“But that’s kind of what got us here is just passion and interest in making very functional nutritious beverages and a bottle that people can enjoy.”