Raw, fresh-pressed juices are all the rage these days, especially in Southern California. At the vanguard of this trend is Nekter, which started in Orange County and has already spread to L.A. The company also recently introduced FedEx shipping so anyone can juice with Nekter anywhere in the country. Following is a Q&A with Nekter co-founder and Chief Visionary Officer, Alexis Schulze.
What inspired you to start Nekter?
— Becoming more and more involved with yoga, I found my way going to get juice with friends after yoga. I tried and tried again to drink the juice I paid almost $5 for , but with no avail. On my third attempt, I took the juice home and stuck it in the fridge with resolve that I would drink it later so I didn’t waste yet another juice. An hour later I attempted to drink it and actually choked it down. I thought maybe if it was a little sweeter I could actually drink it regularly. I added extra apple and asked for it over ice the following few times and felt great after drinking it.
This became a doable ritual and it began happening more and more often. I researched juice and why it energized me, made my skin glow and and enabled my hair and nails to grow so quickly- clearly this liquid was the only logical reason, being the only change in my diet. I then brought my special modified juices home to Steve and after some hesitation, he too, found them to be “drinkable” and noticed how much energy he felt. And so Steve began to regularly drink juice, try juice cleanses and started to notice that he lost weight. All in all, he lost over 20 lbs just by making this one simple and easy change. Thus began the journey to juice.
The idea that people can make this change so easily prompted us to start to come up with so many ideas- the main idea being that if we felt such a profound change from juice, so many other people could benefit as well. So Nekter was born as a passion project that came from our own journey and the desire to share that with people with similar lifestyles. Nekter is the kind of place where things taste good so you actually want to drink them. And because of that there is a life changing effect in the smallest of cups!
How did you come up with the creative smoothie combos? (for instance, I love avocado and chocolate, but I never have thought about pairing them together. Yet the Chocolate Dream smoothie, which is one of my favorites, combines both.)
— I’m a foodie:) most of it is instinctive as I’ve been playing with food all of my life. I have the baby pictures to prove it! Seriously though, I chose most combos for taste and function. (For example the chocolate dream – best PMS cure- avocados and cacao are both great for hormones- now you can really indulge;)
How did you finance the first store? Did you have to borrow money from friends and family, like a lot of small business owners? Or did you have the financial means yourselves?
— We mostly used savings, had to get a little creative and also borrow some. We were very frugal with the first store. It was already a coffee shop so we didnt have to change much.
What was the biggest challenge of opening the first Nekter?
— As a married couple- haha, wow, where do I start? It was just the balance of work and our lives. Nekter became like a newborn child because we were talking about it, up all night worrying about it and hopeful that we would be good ‘parents’ to it. But it all worked out great- I think because we did love it so much. We’ve grown a lot through the process.
In putting together the cleanses, how did you decide which nutrients to use and in which particular order?
— Research, research and more research. Most fruits and vegetables are loaded with benefits of all sorts. Especially dark leafy greens, ginger, lemon and well just about all of them provide a very specific benefit to our bodies. I also tried to make it taste good- my philosophy is no matter how great it is for you; if it doesn’t taste good you won’t drink it. So because we wanted to appeal to everyday people we made an everyday persons cleanse.
Do you travel internationally to discover new superfruits like pitaya or do you do online research? (or find out about these superfruits another way?
— I wish! I do a lot of research and try to stay up on all the new superfoods- the hardest part is determining which are just trendy and which are really something I should incorporate into the stores. I want to make sure people can trust our brand to be relevant and always have their best interest in mind.
Are you now offering organic options at various Nekters? If so, for which smoothies and/or cleanses?
— We have an organic cleanse line. It has some pretty potent greens in it. It’s a little more complex because I think it’s the next step for most of our cleanse customers.
It looks like you are expanding like gangbusters. What do you attribute to the success and expansion of Nekter?
— The success is really attributed to the fact that we make it easy to get healthy and make it taste good. There was just a need for something like what we do. UCI- expected date is mid August:)
How is the nationwide shipping going? Are you getting Nekter customers all over the country?
— It’s going great. We have people from everywhere cleansing. Feedback has been great. In fact Steve and I were in Chicago for a restaurant show last month and we asked the waiter where we could get a juice. Got into a conversation and mentioned we owned a juice bar called Nekter and the lady at the table next to use told us she had done the cleanse with a group of friends and loved it.
What are your expansion plans for the rest of CA and the rest of the country?
— Slowly we plan to spread across CA. We are looking into AZ(where I’m from) and a few other areas.
Are you looking to start franchising Nekter?
— We are testing the franchise model now. We have a few close to us so we can see how they work firsthand.
Has your competition (which I’m guessing is Jamba Juice) improved any of their products, (or at least made them less sugary and more natural) in response to Nekter?
— A few of the other smoothie places have started offering fresh juices they still use sugary bases for most of the smoothies but I’m all for anything getting more options into the hands of anyone!
Anything else you want to add that people who want to eat and drink healthy would be interested to know?
— I’d say that we as a nation need to become more aware of the food choices- highly processed foods are the majority and should be the minority of the food we eat. Cleansing is an opportunity to give our bodies a rest so it can work to heal itself. Over use of processed foods puts strain on our digestive system. It’s not really meant to work 24/7. So a cleanse gives it a much-needed break. And a byproduct is a reset of most bad habits.
Another important point is that- people don’t need to be perfectly healthy eaters to come to Nekter or make it part of their lifestyle. I view juices and smoothies as a way to get nutrition into our bodies. I have fries! I love them:) but I know I get plenty of nutrients from my juice. The point is that you can eat better most of the time!
Stay tuned for my next blog post about my own experience doing a one-day juice cleanse.