Oaklyn residents Krystina Tucci and Scott Whelan bring their cold-pressed juice business into the Grant Building on Haddon Avenue, with a plant-based menu and transparent approach to diet.
By Matt Skoufalos | November 11, 2020
From the famously paraphrased words of Hippocrates—“let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food”—to the emerging field of nutritional psychiatry, the connections between dietary and mental health are well documented.
Simply put, what you eat and how you feel are inherently intertwined, and like many behaviors in which people engage, the act of consumption isn’t necessarily always well considered.
Krystina Tucci, the founder of Wild & Co. juicery, puts it like this.
“I think that the best way to empower yourself is by what you put into your body,” Tucci said.
“If you feel good, you do good things,” she said.
“By lifting yourself and feeling good about yourself, you’re radiating this frequency, and you’re lifting other people around you.”
Eleven years ago, a switch to plant-based eating put Tucci on a path to wellness that changed her thinking about nutrition, which “led me down the rabbit hole of finding out what was in my food, and that led me into juice,” she said.
Eight years after she began tinkering with her juice recipes, Tucci launched a juicing start-up in the Local Provisions storefront, an extension of Local Links Market Café, in Haddon Heights. But last year, an initial attempt to spin off the company at a standalone spot faltered, and she found herself at a crossroads.
“There was a moment where we contemplated selling,” Tucci said. “We didn’t have anywhere to make juice; we didn’t have our commissary.”
But in March, Tucci met with Grant Building owner Kim Goodman, who had previously operated (and discontinued) a juice bar in the mixed-use fitness space, and knew she’d found the home the business had been seeking.
“I was like, ‘This is it; this is perfect,’” Tucci said. “That Friday I saw the space—and then by the following Monday, everything was shut down,” due to the novel coronavirus [COVID-19] pandemic.
Tucci and Goodman kept in touch throughout the spring, and by July 15, when New Jersey headed into the second phase of its reopening, Wild & Co. began to set up shop in the Grant Building, eventually opening its doors September 30.
“We wanted to be in Collingswood even before I started the business,” Tucci said. “It’s beautiful here, and being part of a fitness studio is already part of the vibe we were going for. There were a lot of serendipitous things that happened to lead us here.”
A winning recipe
Before she established her juice business, Tucci was a bartender by trade.
She took up juicing seven years ago, and began honing her recipes as cocktail mixers a few years after that.
Last summer, “The Franklin,” her take on an old-fashioned, took the title for best alcoholic cocktail at the inaugural Goodnature World Juicing Championships, and Tucci is developing a line of mixers called Wild Libations with The Franklin at its center.
The emergence of her juice recipes mirrored that of her cocktail creations: start with a strong base, then layer in herbs and spices to build flavors. The result is a hydrating beverage that doesn’t rely on the artificial sweeteners that most people have difficulty processing.
“We base everything on flavor and color, but I won’t develop a juice unless it has nutritional benefit,” Tucci said. “I think that’s important: having people enjoy what they’re drinking and getting the nutritional benefits from it as well.
“Juice is a liquid vitamin; superfoods are super-concentrated,” she said. “So when you pair all this stuff together, it makes it easy for you to get the nutrition that you wouldn’t get.”
The ingredients in Wild & Co. juices are all cold-pressed and refrigerated, a process that preserves their nutrients without heat pasteurization. The shop retails them by the bottle as well as in multi-day cleanse packages, customizable for individual diets.
The phytochemicals, vitamins, and other nutrients in each juice are “highly bio-available,” said Tucci’s partner, Wild & Co. CFO Scott Whalen, meaning their beneficial components can be absorbed easily, quickly, and in high concentrations that can speed internal repair, especially during a juice cleanse.
“When you do any type of cleanse, you’re not spending any type of energy digesting, but your cells don’t go to sleep,” Whalen said; “they’re always looking for something to do.
“When you’re not in that digestive state, your cells will look for abnormalities and attack them,” he said.
In order to help them achieve optimal results, Tucci also helps coach folks who attempt a cleanse, offering up strategies and solutions for sticking to it.
The upcoming Wild & Co. “Cleansegiving” group challenge will offer “a safe place to go when you’re angry” during such a fast, she said.
“If you don’t have someone helping keep you accountable, it will help you keep going before you start,” Tucci said. “Don’t do a cleanse when you have a bunch of stuff going on. People will peer pressure you.”
In addition to its cold-pressed juices, Wild & Co. offers a menu of superfood smoothies, bowls, and lattes as well as plant-based toasts, all developed by Sarah and Jayne Pinsky of Haddon Heights. Tucci connected with the sisters after getting hip to their vegan Instagram account, Sisses Kitchen, and brought them in to collaborate on the menu.
Sarah’s “bliss balls,” which Tucci describes as “healthy, sweet treats,” are crowd-pleasers, and the quartet also is testing out more baked goods and soups for the winter. All four embrace a shared viewpoint that extends beyond creating healthy take-and-go meals into creating consumer confidence in the integrity of their diets.
“You know what you’re getting from here isn’t artificial,” Tucci said. “Transparency is really big for us.
“We live in a world that makes it very hard to eat healthy,” she said. “We believe in balance. We want to give you an option for when you do want to get healthy.”
Wild & Co. is located in the Grant Building at 716 Haddon Avenue in Collingswood. The shop is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call 856-240-1315, or visit its website.