Why Is Everyone Drinking Celery Juice as if It Will Save Them From Dying?
In May 2018, Perelandra, a natural foods store and juice bar in Brooklyn Heights, sold 698 pounds of celery; in May 2019, they sold 1,245 pounds of it, according to Roland Auer, the store’s co-owner. He’s seen these patterns before.
“A couple years ago cilantro shot up in popularity like this,” he said. “Last summer it was turmeric.”
Produce crazes often occur in the wake of medical reports that extol a certain vegetable’s health benefits. Sometimes the cause is something more scientifically nebulous, such as a citation in Goop or an appearance on “The Dr. Oz Show.” This year, people are crazy for celery.
Organic celery, to be specific, which is recommended in a book that came out in May called “Medical Medium Celery Juice: The Most Powerful Medicine of Our Time Healing Millions Worldwide.” In it, Anthony William, a guru who receives his health advice from a source he calls the “Spirit of Compassion,” advises readers to drink 16 ounces of organic celery juice each morning on an empty stomach. “The juicing craze has caused celery prices to spike,” The Los Angeles Times explained last month, connecting the dots between Goop, Kim Kardashian West and Mr. William.
He says drinking celery juice can lead to clearer skin and weight loss, and help eliminate migraines and gout. Of course, these claims are not backed up by science. But that has not prevented many celebrities from publicly endorsing Mr. William, including Sylvester Stallone, Pharrell Williams, Robert DeNiro, Novak Djokovic and Gwyneth Paltrow.
In New York City, juice is a hallowed symbol of status. Expensive juicers are the mark of a high-tech, high-end, “clean-eating” kitchen, and juice bars are a feature of some of the city’s more exclusive gyms. The Museum of Modern Art recently displayed Josh Kline’s “Skittles,” an installation of 15 smoothies intended to encapsulate different experiences of New York City (“condo,” “night life,” “Williamsburg”) with deliberately absurd ingredients like yoga mats and octopus ink.
In juices and otherwise, celery has never been so hot. “We’ve seen celery sales in produce triple in growth from the previous year,” Masud Alam, the Northeast Regional Produce Coordinator at Whole Foods Market, wrote in an email.
Michael Karsch, the C.E.O. of Juice Press, tracked the rise of celery juice on social media and on Google Trends and, less than a year ago, responded by offering 12 ounces of organic and cold-pressed celery juice for $7. “Within a few days, it was our third best selling beverage, which is astonishing for a one-ingredient offering,” said Mr. Karsch, a reluctant convert. “I have been historically unimpressed by celery. It’s not vibrant. It’s got a ton of water and a ton of a fiber. But was in the store this morning and had a celery juice this morning. Something about it that made me feel like I was doing something good for myself.”
The problem was that he couldn’t keep up with demand. “Three months ago where we couldn’t provide enough celery juice for about 4 days,” he said. They’ve experienced similar shortages before.
“Five years ago it was organic almonds, there was kale maybe 7 years ago,” Mr. Karsch said. “Usually what happens is it corrects.”
At Perelandra, the average price was $2.11 per pound of celery; this year it is $3.67 per pound.
The cause was something of a perfect storm of supply and demand, according to Sammy Duda, the senior vice president of national operations at Duda, a farm that has been selling celery since his great-grandfather started growing it in 1926. Duda is, for all intents and purposes, Big Celery: one of the largest growers of both organic and conventionally versions of the vegetable in the world.
“We’re familiar with all the celebrities who have endorsed celery juice,” Mr. Duda said. “It’s difficult to put a number on it, but it certainly exacerbated the supply issue. This is uncharted territory.”
Some of Duda’s celery is grown around Palm Beach, Fla., where there was a warm and dry fall, which affected the crop. On the West Coast, its celery is grown in Oxnard, in Southern California, or in the deserts of California and Arizona, where there was a cold and wet winter, which can slow the growth of the crop or make it go to seed, so it never makes it to harvest. In addition, there was a soil-born disease that also affected Duda’s crop.
“You put all those things together for a shorter than normal supply. If the supply is down, the price goes up,” said Mr. Duda.
He can’t predict the next produce craze. “I wish I knew. An if I did I probably wouldn’t say,” said Mr. Duda with a laugh.
Perhaps Mr. William will fuel the next trend as he did for celery. He has been promoting produce to his nearly two million followers on Instagram, one that he claims can help heal acne, eczema and psoriasis. It’s the papaya. Better stock up now.
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