Picture: Parkway Photography
In picture is (left), Olive Hill, Invest NI Director of Technology and Process Development, with Mark Linton of AFBI, and Jacquelyn Stewart, owner of Squeeze Juice Cafe.
Warrenpoint-based Squeeze Juice Cafe has been assisted by Invest Northern Ireland to develop a new wheatgrass juice for a healthier lifestyle.
Squeeze Juice Cafe has used an Invest NI Innovation Voucher to develop the fresh juice from wheatgrass it is now growing in Warrenpoint using hydroponic technology. The fresh juice, provided in handy sachets, has recently gone on sale through the company’s internet site and is proving popular with consumers of all ages.
The Innovation Voucher enabled Squeeze Juice Cafe to link up with food technologists at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) in Belfast to assist the company to extend the shelf of the wheatgrass juice drink.
Olive Hill, Invest NI’s Director of Technology and Process Development, commenting on the project, said: “Squeeze Juice Cafe had a specific issue over shelf life and sought advice and practical support through the Innovation Voucher scheme, which enables a company to gain expertise from a university, college or other publicly funded research organisation.
“The company had identified AFBI’s high pressure equipment as the way to a longer shelf life and approached us for assistance.
“The unique high pressure equipment has been proven to help companies keep foods fresher, tastier, safer and nutritious for longer. The technology has been accepted as it does not alter the appearance of the foods, helps avoid the need for chemical additives and preservatives, maintains vitamin levels and removes bacteria to give longer shelf-life and safer products,” Mrs Hill added.
Jacquelyn Stewart, Squeeze Juice Cafe owner, said: “The launch of the new wheatgrass juice is an important change of direction for the company. We had been producing and selling a range of fresh juices since 2010 and noticed that wheatgrass was one of our most popular.
“Subsequent research into the juice produced data about it being a natural energy drink with detox benefits particularly as a liver tonic and colon cleanser. It may also help skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis.
“This led me to start growing my own wheatgrass, initially in soil, now indoors using hydroponic technology by which plants absorb nutrients in water. The first juice had a shelf life of just two hours which meant I had to find a natural way of extending this to ensure commercial viability. I contacted AFBI and they made their high pressure system available.
“As a result, the shelf life has been extended to three weeks. I then launched a website to market the juice in a handy sachet and it’s proving to be an outstanding success. Selling over the internet enables us to juice the wheatgrass to order and deliver as fresh as possible within a few days. Encouragingly, I’ve seen quite a bit of interest from outside Northern Ireland including the Republic of Ireland. These contacts have convinced me that there is substantial potential for the juice in export markets.”
The company recently applied for a second Innovation Voucher in response to a call for food and drink industry projects. The company is again working with AFBI to conduct a sensory assessment of their wider range of hi-pressure treated juices.