The Southern California–based Nekter Juice Bar opened in 2010 and has since expanded to around 100 locations across the country, with plans in place for 400 units in the next few years. The company features fresh-pressed juices, along with grab-and-go bottles and organized juice cleanses. Nekter’s menu also includes açai bowls, smoothies, and even a more decadent product called Skoop, which is a frozen treat made with cashew milk and plant-based ingredients.
CEO Steve Schulze, who cofounded Nekter with his wife, Alexis, says that when it comes to innovation with fresh fruits, the “possibilities are endless.” The natural sweetness of fruit, he adds, outshines artificial sweeteners.
“The key is finding the balance between health benefits and taste,” Schulze says. “You can make the healthiest juice with all of the hottest superfoods, but if it doesn’t taste good, then it’s very hard to make that a sustainable part of your diet. … We balance pure fruits with complementary vegetables and superfoods to create items that offer you functional health benefits, but still taste good—because at the end of the day, if it doesn’t taste good, we won’t eat it.”
Nekter works with a large selection of fruits and vegetables, from pitaya (dragon fruit) to “earthier” veggies and roots like ginger, turmeric, and kale, Schulze says, which pair well with sweeter fruits like apples and oranges. It also adds to its beverages certain superfoods, supplements, and herbs, like plant-based collagen, ashwagandha, prebiotics, and probiotics, which he says provide extra health benefits in addition to nutrients and antioxidants from fresh fruit.
The business stresses the importance of fresh produce deliveries all week, as well as local sourcing when possible, Schulze says. To facilitate this, Nekter partnered with produce management and procurement firm Produce Alliance and has encouraged connections between store operators and nearby farms.