Somethings New At Old Orchard

December 31, 2003
| By Katy Rent |
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SPARTA — The folks at Old Orchard Juice are really going to have to work to top 2003, but they’re already off to a good start.

In 2003, Old Orchard donated six truckloads of juice to the wildfire victims and workers near San Diego and also donated an 88-acre parcel to Sparta High School.

But the New Year might turn out to be even better.

This year the company is debuting a new low carbohydrate juice and a new space-saving bottle, and that is only in the first two weeks.

Adaptations are nothing new for the Sparta-based juice producer, however, which was started nearly 20 years ago by President and CEO Mark Saur on the family’s apple farm.

Saur began by selling concentrated apple juice and did that for nearly 15 years, but then the frozen juice market began thawing.

“The frozen juice business has been falling by the wayside in the last six to seven years, mostly due to the refrigerated orange juice business,” said Mike McDonald, vice president of Old Orchard. “Due to that Mark built a state-of-the-art plant here in Sparta about six or seven years ago and began producing bottled juice in 64-ounce plastic bottles. We produced our first bottle of juice six years ago and today we are the fastest growing bottled juice company in the country.”

In 2003, the company produced more than 5.5 million cases of bottled juice and about 2.25 million cases of frozen juice. And while Saur saw the overall frozen juice business begin to deteriorate, Old Orchard’s frozen business has continued to grow over the years and today it is the third largest frozen juice company in the country.

It now makes 18 varieties of frozen, 100 percent juice and juice blends and 20 bottled varieties.

But maybe even more important than its national products is Old Orchard’s impact on the local community.

Saur said he saw an educational need in the area and offered 88 of his 100 acres as a site for a new Sparta High School.

“Mark has done a tremendous amount to give back to the community. So I think it was a function of they were our neighbors and we were not really using the land to its fullest potential and he just wanted to give back to the community he grew up in,” said McDonald.

And while Saur works to give to his local community, he also is attuned to needs of other communities, such as San Diego.

Last year when the Southern California area was experiencing rampant wildfires, Saur decided to take action and sent six truckloads of juice, which is equivalent to 240,000 pounds or 45,000 bottles, to those in need.

In that case, McDonald said, the images in the media were overwhelming, especially those of exhausted firefighters and residents made homeless by the destruction, so Saur simply decided to act.

And while 2003 was all about giving, 2004 will start with some market driven changes when on Jan. 15 Old Orchard debuts Old Orchard Lo Carb, which features Splenda, a natural sugar substitute.

The new juice will be offered in five flavors: apple and grape cocktail, and three blends, apple cranberry, apple raspberry and apple kiwi strawberry. All will come in 64-ounce bottles. McDonald said the new juices will have 75 percent less sugar, carbohydrates and calories than Old Orchard’s regular products.

Old Orchard will be the first juice company to introduce a product of this sort, which will complement the recent trend in the Atkins, Zone and South Beach diets.

At the same time, all products coming out of the plant will be in new ergonomic and more efficient rectangular space-saving bottles. Previously, McDonald said, most juice bottles were round with a pinch grip. This new design will save space in the refrigerator as well as on the truck when it is delivered.

This is a proprietary bottle and it has the Old Orchard logo embossed on it. Old Orchard’s frozen juices also come in plastic packaging.

“We will continue to try new things and help where we are needed. Last year was a very good year for us and we are looking forward to 2004,” said McDonald. “In the last five years we have been the only frozen juice company that has been growing and we have been the fastest growing bottled juice company. So I would say we have had a pretty steep growth curve and we look forward to more.” 

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