Photography: Mauricio Calero
When it comes to food and drink, Toronto is in a league of its own. Our cocktail scene is impeccable, and new chefs and restaurateurs continue to push the envelope in order to offer fresh perspectives. But it’s not just the bars and restaurants that are defining the culinary landscape. It’s the individuals behind some of the city’s most exciting food and drink companies that are also staking their claim on the cultural capital in Toronto. And while building a brand is no easy task, every so often there are those few cases that break through the fold because of a great product, a strong team and perfect timing. These three companies embody those very characteristics and have captured a group of engaged and loyal followers along their trajectory to success. Here’s what you can learn from them.
Pictured from left to right: Hana James, Anthony Green, Emma Knight
Busy, tired, stressed — all words that could be used to describe the modern professional. We live in a fast-paced society where we’re constantly on the move, over-stimulated and worn out. It’s not a healthy lifestyle and can easily cause a person to burn out; there’s only so much gas in the tank, after all. But if we can’t slow down, we can at least arm ourselves with the proper tools to help offset the draining effects of an always “on” lifestyle.
Enter: Greenhouse Juice Co.
“Once you start experiencing this form of energy, it just changes your perception of what you’re capable of everyday, and also how important nutrition can be in keeping you on the ball,” says Emma Knight. She is one-third of the trio of friends behind the beloved cold-pressed juice brand. Together with her co-founders Anthony Green and Hana James, they noticed a lack of market presence for cold-pressed juices in Toronto, something that Green, a filmmaker, had seen gaining momentum while living in Los Angeles.
Indeed, the benefits of cold-pressed juicing (a process that uses a hydraulic press to extract juice from fruit and vegetables) have been lauded many times over, but part of Greenhouse Juice Co.’s success, and what separates them from the numerous other companies in the market, has been their approach to creating a beautiful brand reflective of their values.
“Our packaging is very transparent, our supply chain is transparent. Everything about what we do is going to the elements. This is all that is in the bottle,” Knight says as she points to the ingredient list. “There is not a lot of clutter on the label, there are no additives, there is nothing done to it. It’s all about that direct experience. And our branding has been the same. We just want to show you what we’re doing.”
Part of the struggle of running such a delicate business — one that relies heavily on a just-in-time supply chain and organic ingredients — has been educating new consumers on the nature of cold-pressed juices and how they arrive in our hands. “Customers have been spoiled by the industrial food complex to the extent that we’ve lost touch around what things really cost. We’ve been so spoiled by processed food and economies of scale that multinationals are able to attain by filling up silos of juice and marketing them as something fresh,” explains Green. “That sort of consumer landscape requires a reframing and reeducation. If you’re going to make something real and not cut any corners, it’s going to cost something.” He continues, “We’re not pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes. It’s going to be both a combination of us becoming much smarter in how we manufacture and source the best ingredients in the most efficient way, and how we tell that story to the consumer, that will drive the growth of our business and bring in new consumers who don’t necessarily understand this ultra-premium juice category.”
Still, despite these challenges, they’ve managed to navigate their industry and elicit an enthusiastic response quite well. And perhaps, at the end of the day, it boils down to one crucial element that any company should prioritize: authenticity. “In this day and age, with the direct communication that you have with a customer through social media, and with the noise that we are bombarded with every day, I think we all have a much higher sensitivity to BS than we’ve ever had before,” says Knight. “For me, [authenticity is] the number one thing. It means doing what you say you do and representing yourself exactly as you are.”