Beet Generation is all about creating a feel good vibe—in every way possible. From creating nutrient-rich juices that can make you feel physically better to an enthusiasm for sharing the wonders of juice with others, “juiceniks” Ross Chan and his partner Ron Pardini are on a mission to spread the juice love from the Temescal Farmer’s Market in Oakland and beyond.
Ross says he was bitten by the juice bug about two years ago, in part due to wanting to make healthier lifestyle choices. He and his wife were about to become parents to their adopted daughter, and he wanted to be his best self as he became a father, he said. Juicing made him feel so good physically that he started to transition to a primarily plant-based diet before 6 p.m. Although he is neither vegetarian nor vegan, Ross says that starting his day with a juice really gives him the energy he needs to begin the day.
The idea to turn his juice habit into a business came in a couple phases. Not long after Ross first began making juice at home, he decided that juice would make for a perfect offering at the family Thanksgiving dinner. He brought his juicer to the family feast so he could make a green juice aperitif for everyone to have before the meal. “I thought the best thing I could do for my family was to make them a green juice—kale, celery, cucumbers. I made about 2 gallons worth.”
When his 12-year old niece asked what he was doing, Ross invited her to help, so the two of them made juice for the entire extended family. “When I made that juice for my family, it meant something to me that I was feeding them something really healthy,” he said.
That experience started his mind whirring. “I kept thinking about turning this into a business idea, and I thought this was something I could really get behind.”
Then a friend in the food business facilitated what Ross refers to as “one of those great kismet meetings” between himself and Beet Generation business partner, Ron Pardini. As Ross related the story, within the span of a few weeks, the mutual friend just happened to share separate meals with both the Chan and Pardini families, both of which were waxing eloquent about the wonders of juicing. Pardini, who is also the founder of the Urban Village Farmer’s Market Association, reached out to Ross and they started to discuss the possibility of making “delicious, all organic juices for the masses.” They started the business in November 2012 and launched at the Temescal Farmer’s Market in Oakland in June of this year.
“Right now it’s a passion play for Ron and I,” Ross said.
The Beet Generation booth currently employees five part-time employees and serves two green juice varieties, one red beet juice and an orange, carrot-based juice. Ross says they are trying to grow the business slowly and “organically,” so to speak, and not take on more than they can “chew” to sacrifice for fast growth. The team is also currently working in conjunction with some fellow long-time juicers and nutritionists on a bottled cleanse package that they hope to introduce sometime this fall.
One of the greatest rewards Ross has seen from selling Beet Generation juices thus far is the reaction that they get from the people who try their juice. The frothy enthusiasm Ross has when he talks about the juices they’ve created underscore just how important it was for the team to create something that was accessible and “profoundly wholesome,” that could appeal to people from 8 to 80. He particularly loves to see the reaction he gets from both his own daughter and other kids at the farmer’s market when they drink the juice. “The…thing I really love is when kids are drinking Beet Generation juice. When I see kids doing that, I just love it!”
The connections he’s been able to make with the people shopping at the market were also an unexpected benefit. Ross said seeing the same people from week to week, having that interaction and getting their feedback helps. And, he said, people have said they miss them if they’re not there.
“We’re just so glad to be an Oakland launched and created company, working from our origins here,” he said.
Beet Generation juices are currently available on Sundays freshly blended at the Temescal Farmer’s Market in Oakland.
What drew you to food?
I’ve always loved food, for sure. Shortly before our 15-month old came into our lives, I started looking hard into our diet, not because of health concerns but I wanted to live my best life. I love any kind of food—cookies, pasta, ice cream, and I don’t deny myself those things, but I’m raw vegan until dinner. For me that just seems to work. Not only for weight management and physical well-being, but I’m also looking more at food that makes you feel good more so than just tasting good.
Juice to me is easy to take, especially when it’s delicious. If you have an 8 oz. Beet Generation juice, you’ll have provided yourself a good foundation for the rest of the day, from vegetarians to eating at the House of Prime Rib. I just believe that it provides a good foundation for people for the rest of the day that I wanted to provide in a delicious and accessible way.
Where does your food inspiration come from?
I love what it does for me personally. It’s just a way to share phytonutrient love! I really believe when we make our juices, we do it with love. That’s truly what inspires me—from the kids that come up to us to their grandparents. I really believe it will make a better, happier person and a better, happier planet.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten along the way in building your business? What advice would you have for others?
I did the Business Intensive class at the Food Craft Institute. Among the themes was—and this was pretty fundamental—basically it was, develop your minimal viable product and take it to market as quickly as possible to really get customer feedback. If it weren’t for that mantra, we’d still be in development mode, figuring out our mantra, our recipes, if it weren’t for that. Those things can get in the way of live customer advice. That’s a huge fundamental piece I got early on.
More recently, the ownership at Bakesale Betty have really taken us under their wing. To be able to learn from the folks at Bakesale, who can really help us think about process, growth, food handling and all of those things a company needs to get a handle on, is invaluable. We’re getting a ton of excellent advice from other food people. Another way to put what the Bakesale people are doing for us is they’re essentially incubating us and sharing with us their restaurant and bakery experience.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced thus far?
For most employers the biggest challenge is finding the right personnel. Thankfully we have a team that’s knowledgeable about juicing, knowledgeable about the immune boosting elements of ginger and of kale, who can walk the talk. Finding [people] and maintaining and growing is a big challenge. We’re always on the lookout for that kind of person who loves what we do and can go through the labor intensive process of serving at the farmer’s market.
What is the best thing about serving juice at the Farmer’s Market?
The best thing is talking to our customers. I’ve been at the booth since we launched. More often than not, I’m talking to people about the juice. It is very, very satisfying to talk to someone who doesn’t normally juice, and they’re like ‘that stuff’s really green or really red’ and they sample it and say that they’re really good. We’ve started that conversation, and they can take it home. Secondarily, if you buy one of our juices and you’re delighted by it. We’ve been doing this for three months and people are looking forward to seeing you every week and are connecting with Beet Generation and connecting with our juices—that is truly delightful to me.
What’s your favorite juice blend on your menu?
I have two favorites. I’m a big green juicer, so we have what I call our ‘easy green’ drink and it’s called Daddy-O. It’s kale, cucumber, celery, apple, lemon, romaine. It’s my favorite green drink, I could drink it all day, any time of the day. With the apples and lemon, it finishes bright and a little on the sweet side.
On the same level is The Dig—it’s beet colored and has beets, carrots, apples, celery, cucumber and lemon. The Dig—deep, beet red. Dark red juice, dark green and orange – those are our colors, together they look compelling.
Are there other local food artisans you admire? Why?
Totally. At the market–everyone at the Temescal Farmer’s Market. I’m addicted to Nana Joe’s granola. I have a weakness for baked stuff, so Starter Bakery, I find totally amazing. To be included with the food artisans at Temescal Market is a real honor. Everything there is really good. Before I was a vendor there, I loved shopping there—it’s the best farmer’s market.
If you had to choose your last meal, what would it be?
It would probably have to be Chinese food—my family is of Chinese heritage. All my favorite, most comforting foods are Chinese foods. Select Dim sum—ha gao, which are shrimp dumplings; this delightful barbeque pork and puff pastry, char siu so; then chive and shrimp dumplings, gow choi gau . Definitely those three. With Vietnamese vermicelli. I love Vietnamese vermicelli–with hot sauce and fish sauce!
Favorite Bay Area food/resto/chef?
[Ross later emailed me to add Bún Mam Sóc Trang to his list saying ‘Totally forgot about this Vietnamese place that I want to go to every weekend. It’s so good.’]
All recipes and photos copyright of Foie Gras and Funnel Cakes unless otherwise noted.