“Accessibility to nutrient-dense food should not be considered a privilege, but a human right.” This is the principle that led cocktail connoisseurs Chiyo Takemoto and Melanie Barrows to build their healthy juice company, Health Nut SATX. (Editors Note: Barrows has since moved on to a new opportunity and Takemoto is the sole owner.) The innovative brand, based in San Antonio, Texas offers juices like “Holiday Jamaica,” a blend of hibiscus, cranberry and orange, “Pinky Swear,” grapefruit, rosemary, agave, lime and filtered water and “Solar Power,” a mix of celery, cucumber, apple and mint. But the offerings don’t stop at juices. They also offer tonic shots, “mylks” and homemade cocktail kits.
The goal is to advocate for an inclusive yet playful approach to consuming healthy foods by creating products that taste good on their own and with booze. “We definitely don’t frown upon people wanting to imbibe while staying health-conscious, so we’ve created ‘healthy-ish’ cocktail kits pairing our beverages with alcohol from small, craft distilleries,” said Takemoto.
The Photosynthesis Cocktail Kit, for example, pairs Health Nut SATX’s Solar Power with all-natural Korean soju from West 32. The kit makes six cocktails and comes with cucumber ribbon garnishes and bamboo skewers.
Before the pandemic struck, Takemoto had worked in the hospitality and food industry for over 15 years, learning everything she could about culinary techniques and wholesale strategies. Eventually, she started her own company, Coquetel Spirits Co., to represent a portfolio of small, independently owned distilleries. But after three successful years, 80% of Takemoto’s restaurant customer base was shut down due to Covid-19.
It was a pivotal moment in her career, and she spent the beginning of quarantine focusing on her own health and career goals. “After taking a short break during quarantine, I really wanted to pursue a new business venture that utilized my skills and talents, but incorporated more of my passion in health and wellness,” she said. So she took a leap and moved from Chicago, Illinois to San Antonio, Texas.
As fate would have it, one of the first people she met in town was Melanie Barrows, a brewery manager. Barrows had also previously lived in Chicago, and they hit it off instantly. With their shared passion for health and wellness, Health Nut SATX was born in July of 2020.
Launching a business during a global pandemic was no easy task. “There are many challenges to starting a business, but during a pandemic it’s especially difficult, particularly when so much of building a brand is about customer relationships and engagement,” said Taketomo. “Luckily, we live in a golden age of technology that allows us to share our voice and brand identity and engage with customers through social media.”
Takemoto explained there have been some silver linings as well. ”One of the advantages we found launching during a pandemic is that it really allowed us to get our bearings and acclimate at a slower pace. So much of starting a new business entails trial and error. We’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way, but have had the time to correct and learn from them.”
The current social climate also influenced how Takemoto wanted to represent the company’s values. “As a company, we promote inclusiveness and identify with being Body-Positive, Anti-Racist, LGBTQIA+ Friendly and Anti-Fascist,” she said. “We also support community-based organizations who combat food insecurity within San Antonio by donating products and produce to Community Fridge SATX.”
The company only sells their products in the San Antonio area currently, but plans to expand to Austin in the coming year. Customers can pre-order online through the website and choose curbside pick-up or free delivery.
NEXT ON THE DISH