Great Growers: Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Company

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Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Company is the story of a fourth-generation citrus family that turned a Florida packing house into a powerhouse global brand. It started in 1989 when Ft. Pierce, Fla., farmer Robert Sexton wanted to create a niche market for freshly squeezed orange juice—at a time when frozen concentrate dominated the market.

“My dad is a dreamer, my mom is a doer,” says Natalie Sexton, 28. While her father was busy running the citrus packing house, her mother, Marygrace, started the juice company and named it for then-infant Natalie. Back then, Marygrace borrowed the butcher’s truck at night to make deliveries. Today the company has 100 employees and distribution in 32 states and 34 countries. And while they started producing juice with only Indian River fruit from Sexton’s groves, today they source from a consortium of Florida farmers who provide millions of pounds of citrus.Edible Orlando talked with Natalie, the company’s director of marketing.

EO: So is Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Company still a family affair?
Natalie: Yes. My mom’s brothers, John, Frank and Bill Martinelli, are part of the company, and now my cousins also are on the team. My mom is CEO, and we’re proud to be certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.

EO: How much of the fruit is still sourced in Florida?
Natalie: For the last 20 years we’ve had to look beyond my dad’s grove. We source from four different growers in Florida, seeking the highest-quality oranges and grapefruits. Though greening has spiked prices, all of our grapefruit, tangerine and orange juice is sourced in Florida. But we now have 12 varieties of juices, so we look beyond Florida for ingredients such as beets that we source from a farm in Oregon for our juice blends. But all of our produce comes from the United States. Agriculture is a livelihood that needs to keep thriving in America.

EO: What makes Natalie’s juice different?
Natalie: Our fruit is hand-selected and -squeezed daily. And we purchase fruit based on the brix content [the amount of sugar in the fruit]. Fruit with high sugar content is expensive, and we only purchase fruit with a specific brix content. And while we “gourmet pasteurize” our juice, we do the bare minimum required by law to kill pathogens.

EO: Where is your juice processed?
Natalie: All of the squeezing is done in Ft. Pierce. From the time we pick the citrus until it’s in the bottle, it’s a 12- to 32-hour process. That’s it. Our juices have no preservatives, no concentrates, no flavor packs, no GMOs, and no artificial ingredients.

EO: What makes you most proud of your family business?
Natalie: We are environmental stewards—all of our packaging is 100 percent recyclable, and our raw fruit peels are used to feed cattle. And we strive to support farmers and create jobs in America.

For recipes like the Carrot Tomato Celery Cockatail (pictured below) , visit their website.

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