What better way is there to cool down this summer, than by sipping on a refreshing, natural and unique juice?
Veggie Wave are an innovative, eco-friendly business based in Lisbon, that not only make delicious juices, but also create a fun, interactive experience that engages customers in a deeper awareness about the environment.
Founded by Italian surfers Niccolò Bagarotto and Riccardo Ferragamo, the business is based upon a deep respect for the ocean and environment, desire for good health and love of people. While on a surfing trip along the European coastline, the two began creating and selling juice as a side business. Due to the juices being such high-quality, nutritional and actively beneficial for health and well-being, the product quickly grew in popularity, leading Bagarotto and Ferragamo to establish Veggie Wave as an official business with a fixed base in Lisbon.
With a mission to minimise their environmental footprint, they reuse and reduce as much as possible. For example, instead of using cups and straws made from plastic, they use ones made from PLA, a plant-based degradable plastic alternative that decomposes naturally within 80 days when exposed to certain levels of heat and moisture. Additionally, they infuse leftover crushed ginger, beetroot shavings, orange rind and lemon zest into tea bags instead of simply throwing them away.
However what really captures the attention of customers and makes Veggie Wave stand out from the crowd, is the fact that they use a bicycle generator to blend the juice. They are the first cold-pressed juice bar to operate entirely electricity-free: pedalling the bicycle creates the source of energy used to power the blender, while solar energy powers the music speaker. Customers are encouraged to hop on the bicycle and join in the fun, and unsurprisingly, people are loving it!
I caught up with Niccolò to dive deeper into all aspects of the Veggie Wave experience.
When did you first open?
We started building the first kiosk in May 2017 in a town in between Florence and Bologna. From Italy we moved our adventure to the quiet surf town Baleal in Portugal, selling juice close to a popular spot for surfing. However, we wanted to challenge ourselves by setting up in a busier location, so we moved to Sintra last July for the summer season, and with spring 2018, we opened up our first location here in Lisbon, in the LX Factory.
What made you decide to create this kind of business?
When I lived in London, I studied to be a chef at Le Cordon Bleu. My dream at the time was to become a Michelin star chef. However my experiences in the kitchen and seeing how much waste was produced by the fine-dining industry made me realise what I wanted to achieve with Veggie Wave: a culinary experience that was more seasonal, more simple and less wasteful.
Did you know anything about bicycles beforehand?
My business partner Riccardo is the expert in that field. He has always been passionate about bikes and has competed in downhill bike events. So whenever the bikes break, he has the knowledge to fix it.
How did you learn to make a generator?
We did some research online but we mostly learn as we go. How large the wheel and other parts are make a difference to the power produced. We had a big battle with reaching the number of RPM necessary to make a good juice. Last year we had around 3000 RPM, which we realised was too slow; if we were blending pineapple for example, there would still be large chunks left after it was blended. Now that we have increased the RPM, the juice is smooth and finishes with a nice froth on top.
Are there any factors that people don’t realise about using natural ingredients?
Every recipe is like a story to me; a love story between the ingredients that together, create something uniquely delicious. Working with natural products is unpredictable, as there are so many natural factors that affect the flavour and texture of the juice. Last week for example, we had some sensational organic beetroot with so much colour and intensity, that made the Purple Haze (our best seller), taste even more incredibly amazing. When I can, I like to take the time to explain all of our ingredients to customers, as not everyone knows that much about them. And sometimes we make new recipes together, depending on what specific flavours the customer is looking for.
Are all of your ingredients organic?
From the start, I wanted to avoid being 100% organic, because the rate of delivery of produce is not steady and there are sometimes delays. What I find very important to do, where possible, is source seasonal and local products. Of course that isn’t always possible, as some things like ginger aren’t grown in Portugal, so we get our ginger from Peru instead.
Do people always understand your message of sustainability?
No, not always. With our kiosk in Belem for example, we’re dealing with a high number of people and mostly tourists. They generally don’t care too much about our message, they just want to take a photo with the bike because it’s cool. It’s a shame, because a bicycle is a very genuine eco-friendly message, and even a child can understand the purpose and meaning of a bicycle. Sadly I’d say only 20% of the customers are interested or really understand the importance of sustainability.
Is it your aim to educate people about these environmental issues?
We really try to share as much as possible, and we always explain the degradable cups we use. Sometimes it is difficult as there’s not enough time to go into all the details, but we are planning to create a blackboard with more a detailed description explaining why and what we are doing.
What do you enjoy most about your business?
Someone once told me that I am selling happiness. Everyone around the kiosk is always smiling, and I think everyone feels a bit more like a child when pedalling the bicycle — it’s genuine and pure happiness. It’s such a cool atmosphere! We also have a large team who we encourage to work part time, as it is healthy to work less and enjoy life. Everyone is always happy. The business is a fun and fresh way to share some deeper suggestions and tips about environmental problems and solutions. And at the end of the day, we’re not just a juice bar, we’re a shop of love.
Veggie Wave currently have three kiosks in operation in Lisbon, one in Belem, LX Factory and Cais do Sodre as well as their newly opened shop in Principe Real where they also grow and sell plants.
Check out their website here, or follow them on Instagram or Facebook!
Photo copyrights belong to Veggie Wave.