Pressing Issues (A Juicy Exposé) - theHumm June 2019
Pressing Issues (A Juicy Exposé) - theHumm June 2019
By Sebastian Weetabix
Your faithful correspondent Weetbix returns after a brief absence, and thirsting for novelty in the realm of food and beverages, turns his attention to the subject of juice — or, more accurately, juices. Prompted by the Editor, a visit is paid to a local producer and purveyor of juice where product was sampled and notes were taken. We are happy to report that Clare Carty’s Little Mississippi Juice Company delivers on Clare’s statement that “the quality of the product is really where it all begins and ends”. We shall return to this topic later but first, a few comments about nutrition, health, language and food.
Weetabix is easily confused and readily confesses to having difficulty in understanding text even though specific words may have generally accepted definitions. According to Humpty Dumpty, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.” Perhaps that is the mantra of much of the food business.
The labelling of food products is regulated and intended to be clear as to the contents of whatever it is we are being offered to ingest. Advertising copy is intended to persuade and is allowed to treat facts as elastic, but in these days of fake news, what are facts and how are they determined? Clare’s labels are as clear and straightforward as her products, but random sampling of competing “juice-based” products provides a rich lode of unsubstantiated claims, exaggerated benefits and projected wishful thinking. Words such as “enzymes” and terms such as “CFUs” appear along with nonsense statements suggesting that somehow things are better because the manufacturer does not have good quality control procedures! Were it just harmless nonsense, this abuse of language could be viewed as a form of entertainment. Unfortunately, partial truths and unsubstantiated claims can produce harmful outcomes. Buyers of food and beverage products are genuinely seeking guidance towards avoiding harm and achieving better health.
Good nutrition is essential to good health. The complexities of foods and metabolism are, well, complex. Informative studies are difficult and costly. Worse yet, they do not always give support to the marketing department. On the other hand, extrapolating without critical review of data is unsound and dangerous. We do not assess risks well and intuition does not provide reliable guidance. Sellers of food products have an obvious bias and many studies carry the taint of their funding sources.
Existing regulations are biased in favour of large producers and enforcement is weakened by claims of interference with “free speech”. Processed food products, even those conspicuously claiming to be “natural”, are made with the intent of financial gain. The further away one gets from the source/raw materials, the more opportunity there is for profit engineering and slick marketing to take the lead over other considerations. Many companies which present themselves as “health oriented” are primarily driven by margin contribution. Careful reading of labels and claims should be done with one’s BS detector turned to 11!
And so to specifics: first of all, juices are not juice drinks, although Weetabix has seen products labelled “100% juice and other ingredients”. Correct. Juice drinks, especially those listing “filtered water” as an ingredient, are suspected of containing cynic hydrate and are all wet all through. They are certainly cheaper to make than juices, and it is hard to put quality back into something from which it has been assiduously filtered out. Beware also of juice cocktails in which natural fruit sugars are replaced with high fructose syrup as an economical way to extend more costly ingredients.
And finally we get to the meat of this article… which is juice. Put another way, juice is a meaty subject, but enough of what passes for dry wit. Eating fruits and vegetables can actually be hard work. Chewing takes time and effort, so, being more technologically advanced than our ancestors, it is reasonable to progress from chewing and swallowing to simply swallowing. Not only that, but in liquid form fruits and vegetables can be blended to produce new and interesting flavours. Herein lies the motivation for home juicing — a way to achieve the nutritional benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables with the added benefits of ease of consumption and the ability to create novel flavours. Truly, juices are a convenience food well suited to a busy lifestyle. There is, however, a catch. Real juice is difficult to make. Weetabix hears an imagined voice touting the convenience of home juicers. Do not fall for this unless your idea of the perfect juice is orange juice, in which case consider a hand press specifically designed for this one task. Otherwise consider that most home juicers end up unused after a brief period of enthusiastic experimentation. Making juice at home is not magic but it does take effort, attention to raw materials, and a significant clean-up.
Enter Little Mississippi Juice Company. Clare Carty, founder and owner, is willing and able to fill the desire for “liquid fruit and vegetables”. In a small commercial kitchen she hand-processes produce and fills recyclable containers for a small but growing list of customers who, in her words, want the benefits of juice without the hassle of making it. The premise is borne out by customer anecdotes and as Clare points out, a lot of preparation and work goes into each batch. There are some economies of scale. Weetabix is impressed by the result and notes that Clare also creates interesting flavour blends while staying true to her mission objective — to deliver only the juice, the whole juice and nothing but the juice.
A refugee from the Dilbertian world of high-tech, Clare is happily self-employed without concerns for idiot bosses and their meaningless projects. She has a clear vision based on creating, making and selling products that are health-supporting and tasty too. Starting with five basic flavours she has plans to diversify into related products such as frozen juices on a stick (Popsicle is a brand name). Watch for them this summer. She is committed to local sourcing and “organic growth” and is willing to take time to learn her local markets. For Clare, pure, healthy juices are a simple and important mission. For the rest of us, they are a healthy and convenient nutritional product. Since retail distribution is both difficult and fraught with problems associated with maintaining quality, Clare has started out selling directly from her small commercial kitchen (located at Carriageway Studios in Almonte) and at the Almonte Farmers’ Market almontefarmersmarket.com . She also takes orders online; check out her website at littlemissjuice.ca and get juiced!
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