Creative juices flow at entrepreneurial venture

Stephanie Witwer loads a press that turns vegetables and fruit into juices she bottles under the Press Colorado Juice Co. label. Witwer uses about 2 pounds of organic produce to make a 16-ounce bottle. Witwer started the Grand Junction business earlier this year. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)
Stephanie Witwer loads a press that turns vegetables and fruit into juices she bottles under the Press Colorado Juice Co. label. Witwer uses about 2 pounds of organic produce to make a 16-ounce bottle. Witwer started the Grand Junction business earlier this year. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Stephanie Witwer crams what might otherwise constitute the ingredients of a really big garden salad down a large metal tube. In goes whole cucumbers and long stalks of celery along with kale, leeks and lettuce. Cilantro and even a few jalapeno peppers add to the mix.

Witwer switches on the machine and tamps down all that produce with a long metal tool as if she were loading a cannon.The processed pulp drops into a cloth bag, which in turn is compressed and produces a steady stream of green juice that collects in a bucket.

When the process is complete, Witwer will have turned every 2 pounds of organic produce inserted into one end of the machine into
16 ounces of cold pressed juice that comes out the other end. She bottles her juices and nut milks under the brand of Press Colorado Juice Co., a Grand Junction business venture she launched earlier this year.

The juices offer not only nutritious beverages, Witwer says, but also health benefits for people with food allergies, digestive disorders, joint inflammation and even skin problems. Witwer should know, because she says she suffered from food allergies and digestive problems herself and found a remedy. “I used juicing to heal myself.”

Now Witwer says she hopes to share her juices with what she eyes as a growing market of people who want to lead healthy lifestyles. “I think we have a portion of people in this town who like to exercise and take good care of their bodies.”

Witwer operates Press Colorado Juice Co. out of the commercial kitchen at the Business Incubator Center in Grand Junction. She recently purchased a $25,000 juice press to expand production. She’s hired one employee to assist her and says she hopes to hire another.

Witwer sells her products for $10 a bottle from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays and Fridays at Ridgeline Fitness at 805 South Ave. as well as the farmer’s market from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays along Main Street in downtown Grand Junction.

Witwer also accepts orders for her products online through her Web site at www.presscolorado.com.

Witwer says she’d like to eventually move into her own location, where she could both make and sell her juices. “I just think it will make the products a lot more accessible.” She also hopes to sell her products at more festivals and special events.

Witwer sells seven juice mixes, including the Insalata made with celery, cilantro, chard, cucumbers, jalapenos, leeks, lemons, lettuce and spinach. Her Mother Earth juice is made with celery, cucumbers, ginger, kale, lemons and seasonal greens. A product dubbed Purple Wizard includes beets, cucumbers, lemons, pears and seasonal greens.

Witwer makes other juices with various combinations of vegetables and fruit, including carrots, apples and lemons. She also makes a cleansing tonic with apples, cayenne, filtered water, ginger and lemons.

In addition, Witwer makes cashew and almond nut milks that also include agava, cinnamon, coffee and vanilla. She keeps nuts separate from other juices to avoid the possibility of cross contamination for customers who might have nut allergies.

All of the products are made with organic ingredients, many of them grown locally, Witwer says. “Anything I can get local, I do.”

All of the products also are made in a cold press process that removes vegetable and fruit fiber, but leaves intact the live enzymes that allow the body to absorb the nutrients more efficiently, Witwer says. Consuming vegetables and fruit as juice allows the body to absorb 90 percent of nutrients. Eating those same vegetables and fruits and digesting fiber limits nutrient absorption to only 30 percent, she says.

Press Colorado Juice Co. juices are raw and unpasteurized and contain no preservatives. But the cold press process offers a five-day shelf life in a refrigerator, she says.

Juices made with most home juicers must be consumed immediately, Witwer says. Many commercial juices are pasteurized, which kills the live enzymes, reduces the nutritional benefits and alters the flavors.

In addition to the nutrition, drinking juice cleanses the body of toxins absorbed from the air people breathe and food they eat as well as created by stress, Witwer says.

Witwer recommends cleansing two to four times a year by drinking only juices, water and herbal teas for three days or more at a time. Some people drink only juice and water one day a week as part of their routine, she says.

Witwer says she first starting making  juices for herself about six years ago to counteract food allergies and digestive problems as well as develop a more proactive approach to promoting health. That makes her confident her products work. “I feel like I’m such a good guinea pig.”