When Hillary Lewis started Lumi Juice in 2013, she figured she understood her customer base. Each 16-ounce bottle of her cold-pressed blends — produced in Charlottesville, Va. — contains 2 pounds of organic fruits and veggies. So they’re a natural fit for harried folks looking to sneak more produce into their diets.
What wasn’t Lewis expecting? A call from the Washington Wizards this summer. That discussion led to a partnership between Lumi and the basketball team, and a flood of new ideas for drinks.
“They’re high-performance athletes, and their feedback is really cool,” says Lewis, who’s been testing out protein powder mix-ins and considering various ingredient tweaks to target players’ needs and tastes.
For instance, forward Kris Humphries recently requested a green juice with no fruit in it. So Lewis whipped one up for him with spinach, kale, cucumbers and collard greens. If he likes it, she says, “I’ll bottle it for the world to drink.”
A few years ago, the idea of muscular dudes downing this stuff courtside would have been hard to swallow. When the juice trend began, it was popular mostly with folks interested in weight-loss cleanses. But now, it’s attracting people looking for a rush of vitamins and minerals — and possibly even hoping to pack on some pounds.
“It’s an extra meal without having to eat anything,” says Faisal Sultani, chef for the Washington Nationals, who’s been making juices for the baseball team since 2013. One guy requested one, another guy was curious to try one too, and now there’s a core group of daily juice drinkers. (It’s definitely not everyone on the team: “Some guys think they taste terrible,” Sultani says.)
To make sure players get the most out of their juices, Sultani strives to use only organic ingredients, often tosses in turmeric — a natural anti-inflammatory — and encourages consumption within 15 minutes of preparation (lest they lose any nutrients). The drinks might not guarantee a win on the field, but they’re key to overall strategy.
“Taking care of themselves is a huge part of their job,” Sultani says.
Although he’s not at liberty to name which players are hooked on juice, a few have gone public with their habit. Earlier this year, Bryce Harper showed his love for D.C.’s Jrink Juicery by tweeting a photo of him enjoying a beverage.
Jrink is also a favorite of Nationals’ color commentator F.P. Santangelo, who wishes he’d been introduced to the benefits of juice back when he was playing professionally.
“It’s my new coffee — it gives me so much energy,” Santangelo says. When he starts the day with a glass of greens, he gets the urge to exercise more and eat better.
Those kinds of results may lead to more sports teams hopping on the juice bandwagon. Since starting to work with the Wizards, Lumi has also begun providing drinks to athletes at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Lewis is eager to pursue additional partnerships.
To make that happen, she might want to give Lumi’s packaging a makeover. At her last Wizards meeting, the players all had one question: “Why does this have hearts on it?”
Old Town, new option
Greenleaf Juicing Company started as a food cart in Portland, Ore. Now, it’s a chain that serves cold-pressed juices, smoothies, soups and more. For its first outpost beyond Portland, Greenleaf has targeted Alexandria. Its location at 1309 King St., opens Jan. 1 and is already taking orders for cleanse package deliveries ($20-$225).
You might also like: