If you think juice is something innocuous and drinkable that comes in orange and apple and maybe pineapple, you are missing out on a whole world of juice. There's a spate of small-batch juice-preneurs selling their high-end bottled "healthy," "raw," "organic," "nutrient-filled" concoctions for $10 or $12 or more a pop. It's not just what you drink, it's a lifestyle, as promoted by celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Kelly Wearstler. You juice, you cleanse, you conquer (and maybe you are a bit hungry). Beyond the human logistics of drinking the juice, though, there's the seamy underbelly of the business side — the people making the juice, companies like Juice Press and Blueprint and Love Grace and Organic Avenue — and in that world there is juice infighting and one-upmanship and jockeying for positions, just like anywhere else. According to Molly Friedman writing in the New York Daily News, as juice makers sell more and more juice, they're battling over market share and doing whatever it takes to come out on top. The year 2013 will go down in history as the time of the juiciest juice wars yet.

How juicy, exactly? "New York City juicing has graduated from a cultish craze to a cutthroat, multimillion-dollar industry, and the competition between beverage makers has become sharper than a blender blade," she explains. And who will the Next Top Juicer be? "At least a dozen startups are vying for health-conscious customers in a war that’s more ideological than the short-lived, sugar-packed conflict between Snapple and Fruitopia." The battles are on, but it's too early to declare a winner.

While juice ideology may sound high-falutin' — it has to do with the essence of the juice, how it's made, what it has in it, nutrient-wise and otherwise, as well as where and how it's sold — the juicers take this very seriously: "'What the other juice companies are doing is they’re creating juice with no soul,' says Juice Press CEO and founder Marcus Antebi." So far as I understand it, juice with a soul needs to be, at least generally speaking, not available on the shelves of a grocery store, because that means it's been pasteurized and had some of its soul removed. Blueprint and some others get around the "soul" issue with a high-pressure processing technique that means bottles can stay on shelves for more like 21 days as opposed to 2, or be shipped to far-off locales and remain ostensibly fresh. But dissenters say "using anything other than a cold press is a sin" because live enzymes are killed and the nutrition of the juice decreases as well. Juice, so much more complicated than juice.

Oh, and then there's the increasing use of the term "farm-to-bottle" to describe the freshness and soulfulness of said juice. Not everyone believes it's more than fancy packaging: "'Farm-to-bottle’ is highly unlikely in New York,' Jamie Graber of Gingersnap's Organic in the East Village told Friedman. 'Anyone who’s claiming they are local in New York, I would love to see where that farm is.'"

Juice shots fired. 

Image via Shutterstock by Anna Kucherova.