Richard Smith-Bernal is the Founder and Owner of The Juice Smith, a restaurant based in Cobham, Surrey, supplied by Thornicrofts from New Covent Garden Market. Richard started cold-pressing juices in 2013 and has seen his business rapidly expand since he opened it in 2015.
Tell us a little about The Juice Smith
We’re a seven-year old, family-run wellness brand, home to plant-based, organic products that are free-from refined sugars or any preservatives. I started cold-pressing juices single-handed from my Mum’s kitchen, and since 2015 we’ve had a restaurant and market space in Cobham. Now, our juices and snacks are available for nationwide online delivery and we’re constantly looking at new ideas.
How did the business get started and what made you choose your location?
I know Cobham well as that’s where I grew up. It’s an affluent area, so it was the perfect location to set up the restaurant, especially a business supporting healthy eating. I realised that people were becoming more health conscious and I’d been to restaurants in London that were offering more healthy options. I started juicing from home at first, then I raised the capital to buy a bigger machine and the business started to expand from there.
You’ve created a series of cold-pressed juices and drinks that combine a healthy lifestyle with delicious flavours. How easy is it to create new products and ideas?
It’s easy to create as we have lots of ideas! But it’s much harder to test with control quality and flavour going through various rounds of taste testing. One of our recipes took us six months of testing to perfect until we were happy. It can be a long process, but we draw on experience from the USA. I’ve travelled to America a lot and some of the restaurants and products are probably 10-years ahead of us in terms of the healthy eating journey.
What is your connection to New Covent Garden Market and how did that come about?
My wife already had a connection to New Covent Garden, so we used to travel to the Fruit and Vegetable Market to look at what produce was seasonal, but it was the amazing buzz and the energy of the wholesalers that kept us coming back.
We’ve worked with different suppliers in the past and through our executive chef we’ve built a great relationship with our supplier at the Market, the fruit and vegetable wholesaler Thornicrofts Ltd. Danny at Thornicrofts is brilliant for us, and what sets them apart is the personal service that we receive. They supply us with literally hundreds of kilos of fruit and vegetables each week and we trust them to give us the best service.
Why do you purchase from NCGM and what makes us valuable to your business?
Good service, reliability, fresh produce. We use seasonal produce and Thornicrofts is always reliable with availability and quality. We use a combination of ingredients supplied by Thornicrofts for our seasonal menus and juices. What we gain from working with New Covent Garden Market is so important – the story and the people behind the fruit and vegetables is vital. The natural element is something that we’re proud about and we’re always keen to shout about our suppliers and our farmers, as the supply chain doesn’t get spoken about enough. We love working with people like Danny, who has the knowledge and experience and shares this with our executive chef. New Covent Garden Market is vitally important for London. We want to support the Market and shout about it to our customers.
How do you decide on which flavours to use and do you have a best-selling product?
From day one we realised that people like certain flavours, but it’s tricky getting it right. The team at Thornicrofts have been very helpful, and they’ve even sent us produce free of charge so that we can test recipes and flavours with our customers. As for our best-selling product, it’s our California Sun juice, that beams with a warm citrus glow. It’s full of anti-inflammatories and antioxidants, which can help boost your immune system and reduce signs of aging. We like to joke that it transports you to your favourite beach! Another popular product – and one that surprised us – was our Sweet Potato and Kale dish that we serve in our restaurant. It’s a lot of people’s favourite and we’re able to work with Thornicrofts to add a different seasonal twist each year.
Have you seen a growing demand for healthy juices and meals since you first opened the business?
Absolutely, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic. We’ve seen a big change in our consumers, who are realising that prevention is better than cure. We’ve even become a destination for people who are suffering with various ailments and we’ll happily recommend certain juices and products. What you’re putting into your system is so important for your health. We work with nutritionists to make sure that all the goodness from our fresh ingredients is captured in the bottle, so we can let our customers know our products are special.
Cobham is also home to Chelsea Football Club’s training ground – has that had any influence on the business?
Yes, we’ve established a good connection with the club, thanks to John Terry, the former Chelsea captain. John lives locally so he used to regularly visit the shop and really got behind our products and started supporting what we were doing. It was thanks to John that we were able to form a connection with the club and we started supplying the training ground with our products.
Does having a physical shop make a big difference to the juice side of the business?
The juice business was my first idea and I knew that I wanted to have a physical shop so that I could meet our customers and get face-to-face feedback. The restaurant is a great testing ground for new ideas and the feedback we receive directly from our customers is invaluable. It’s our mission to make healthy food that’s good for you but also tastes incredibly nice!
Our long-term goal is to bring more products and recipes to market - we want to make healthy food popular and show the public that it’s not just rabbit food!
For more on The Juice Smith, go to https:// www.thejuicesmith.com/