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Do You Juice? Notes on a Noisy Movement

March 26, 1992|LAURIE OCHOA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

At the hour just after dawn, before the morning news shows and reruns of "Leave It to Beaver," there they are, wide-eyed and awake on your TV screen: the perky people. Starring in their own 30-minute info-mercials, they want to improve your life . . . for just two or four or maybe 10 easy payments. They will sell you miraculous products to gloss your hair, tone your thighs, smooth your skin and fix your negative personality. But most of all, they want to sell you a juice machine.

Consider the lineup last Saturday morning. There was Jack LaLanne, the celebrity "guest" on a show called "Amazing Discoveries," looking fit as ever at 77 and doing chin-ups around his faux-naive lug of a host to sell his machine, the Juice Tiger. "This is absolutely modern . . . this is today!" he exclaimed, as lovely wife Elaine LaLanne busily juiced out samples for the studio audience.

A few channels over, on "The Joy of Juicing," stern Gary Null Ph.D lectured the audience on its noxious habits, while his bubbly female host chirped "That's really good!" after every sip of juice (though she did sort of wrinkle her nose at the one that contained a hit of raw garlic). " Six cups a day?" Null chided a hapless coffee drinker. "Do you know what you're doing to your adrenal glands?"

Then there was the man who started the whole morning TV juice craze, Jay Kordich, known to his fans as the Juiceman. Slightly less hyper than its competitors, but no less intense, "The Juiceman Show" features lots of authoritative newspaper and magazine quotes from experts on the value of eating fresh vegetables and, just like "Nightline," apparent satellite linkups with doctors and nutritionists who confirm that yes, juicing is good for your health.

Lately, though, the juicing phenomenon has become more than a between-channels curiosity. No longer an activity limited to health nuts and aging hippies, juicing is a full-blown trend. "Juice" is even a reflexive verb, as in, "Do you juice?" An affirmative answer may lead to a hot date--maybe a midnight shot of wheatgrass at I Love Juicy followed by a lazy Saturday morning eyeing beets at the local farmer's market.

Just check out your local department store. A year ago you might have found a juice extractor in the housewares section, but now you're likely to see at least four or five makes--if they haven't already sold out.

"This is an exploding business category," says George Whitney, vice president and merchandising administrator for housewares of Macy's California. "It's not as big as espresso/cappuccino makers but it's certainly one of the hottest. It's just growing like crazy."

And check your neighborhood bookstore too--juice books are selling out practically as soon as they hit the shelves. "It's taken us all by surprise," says Mark Hill, manager of South Coast Plaza's Rizzoli Books, a store normally known for its art and architecture books. "A good seller for us usually means 20 to 25 copies a week. But we've been selling 50 copies a week of the juice books." Hill is so impressed he's having a juice author, Stephen Blauer, who wrote "The Juicing Book," visit the store for a book-signing on April 11.

The most successful current juice book, however, is "Juicing for Life" by Cherie Calbom and Maureen Keane. It was released in January and is already in its seventh printing, which will bring the number of copies published to 500,000. For the last four weeks, the book has been in the top 10 of B. Dalton's trade paperback list and it has a good shot of making the New York Times bestseller list.

"Sales are stronger on the West Coast," says Avery Publishing sales manager Ken Rajman, who handles the book, "but it's doing well all over the country--juicing is a national phenomenon. At first it was fueled, I think, by the info-mercials. And to some extent it's gizmo-itis. I mean, it's fun to push carrots down a juicer with a plunger. But it's beyond that now; it's definitely word of mouth. People want to feel healthy."

Not to be left out, Juiceman Jay Kordich has a book coming out next month called "The Juiceman's Power of Juicing." The publishing house, William Morrow, is so confident it will sell, 450,000 copies are being published in the first printing; the title is a Book-of-the-Month-Club alternate.

The Juiceman has even found his way to department stores, including May Co. and Robinson's, in the form of the Juiceman Jr. machine, a smaller and less expensive version of the Juiceman II, sold at seminars and on TV, and the original Juiceman, now sold in health stores.

"We've only had the Juiceman Jr. machines in the stores since last month," says Rick Cesari, co-founder of Trillium Health Products and JM Marketing, backers of the Juiceman machine and other nutrition-related products, "but we have firm orders for 50,000 units a month through the end of the year."

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