I'm drinking my vegetables as I write this week's column: a Verde almond chai, to be specific. It includes kale, apparently, though I can't taste it. I've been a fan of Verde (verdefood.com) since Kelly Egolf opened it five years ago, so when I heard changes were in the offing, I checked in to find out the news—and make sure that I wasn't losing my favorite tiger nut horchata source.
I am not. Egolf will continue to make the popular cold-pressed juices and nut milks in the back of the facility at 851 W San Mateo Road. But a new business, Kevin Ivens' Terra Verde Organic, will operate the front of the store, expanding the retail side to include smoothies, baked goods and a variety of made-to-order and grab-and-go lunch items, such as soup, bowls and paninis. The new restaurant will continue Verde's commitment to organic and locally sourced ingredients.
Egolf describes the two Verdes' relationship as "almost like a partnership. We are two companies sharing one space." The shift began last summer, a few months after Ivens and his wife Mariana relocated to Santa Fe from New Orleans. That move was a few years in the making, and coincided with the couple's transition to a more health-conscious lifestyle. Kevin's mother had begun experiencing health issues that made it difficult for her to swallow food, so Kevin and Mariana began experimenting with juicing, which expanded to making nut milks and then fermented drinks. Mariana began making beet juices for Kevin, a self-described "gym rat," to drink before his workouts. "We started to explore other superfoods, things we could infuse into smoothies," he says. "It made me want to do less of the bad and more of the good." Eventually, he sold his industrial staffing company and pursued their dream of relocating to Santa Fe to open up a retail space that would combine a love of coffee houses, organic food and juices.
They met Egolf through friends and the similarities were striking. Kevin and Mariana had already decided to name their business Terra Verde. Egolf's own pathway to juicing and healthy foods had also been sparked when her jaw was wired shut after a surgery. Moreover, Egolf had been pursuing transitioning her business to eliminate the retail side and focus on wholesaling her juice line.
"It was just perfect timing," Egolf says. "There's a lot of things about Kevin and his life experience and his values around organic food and nutrition and health that just mirrored my own, and the fact that they had this concept [and] they even wanted to call their business Terra Verde; the universe said, 'You and Kevin are supposed to find each other."
Customers will still be able to find Verde juice at Terra Verde, but Egolf is now also selling the line in independent grocery stores from Albuquerque to Boulder. Transitioning to wholesale has meant some adjustments in production, she says. In order to distribute the product and comply with Federal Drug Administration rules, Egolf needed to extend the shelf life. As a result, the company has added a line of juices with a longer shelf life (both lines are available at the Terra Verde store). The longer shelf life is made possible by using a technology growing in popularity: high pressure processing, or HPP.
The cold-pressure treatment, Egolf explains, kills harmful bacteria but leaves the healthy probiotics intact. The original line of juices typically have four- to five-day shelf lives; HPP allows that to be extended for up to 45 days—although Egolf says she will pull products prior to that.
HPP technology has been growing in popularity in the US, where it's been used for at least 15 years. It became more widely known over the last decade thanks to products like packaged guacamole. A Feb. 14 Food Business News article that explains the process credits the cold-pressed juice industry with HPP's growing popularity, characterizing it as a "natural and environmentally friendly technology that eliminates the need for preservatives and other shelf life-extending additives."
Both businesses will also maintain Verde's "zero waste" ethic. Egolf says all food waste is composted and Terra Verde's packaging is made from compostable packaging. "If it has a purpose, if it can be reused or recycled, we do that," Egolf says. Ultimately, she says, Verde wants to have a noticeable impact on the local food economy. To that end, she also has brought on board other startup food companies in various ways. Verde is selling Madre Foods' locally made bone broths. Tierra Madre Botanical owner Aimee Putnam is using Verde's kitchen to make her products, as will local salsa company A La Vé! Additionally, Stargazer Kombucha, founded by Alison Schmidt, relocated from Albuquerque to Santa Fe and will relaunch out of Verde's kitchen.
"We do a lot of mentoring and handholding to make the costs of launching a food business manageable," Egolf says, noting that she rents the kitchen at below-market prices "to like-minded organic good quality food companies that want to grow. … That's Verde's commitment: To change the local food economy, we need more mentoring and sharing."