Florida ‘clean-label’ juice company invests in self-proclaimed ‘red-juice trend’

Natalie's - team Marygrace centre

Marygrace Sexton (centre) and her daughters; the Natalie's team

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As the wellbeing movement continues to prevail on both sides of the Atlantic, fresh produce buyers can draw inspiration from Florida-based Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Company, whose “clean label” fruit and vegetable juices remind us that simple, locally-sourced ingredients are winning the hearts and minds of today’s health-conscious consumers. Produce Business UK chats to the firm’s namesake and marketing director Natalie Sexton about its philosophies and why the colour red is joining its juice family. 

The American dream

The heartwarming story of Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Company (or Natalie’s, as it’s also known) began nearly 30 years ago when founder and CEO Marygrace Sexton decided to fulfill her husband’s dream of producing freshly-squeezed citrus juice – a dream that the busy, fourth-generation citrus grower had simply not had the time to pursue. Fittingly, Marygrace named her new juice company after her daughter Natalie, whom she was pulling along in a red wagon in the family’s orange grove at the time of her life-changing moment. Using citrus fruits from its home state of Florida, the Fort Pierce-based, women-owned firm now produces a range of popular juices, including orange, grapefruit, orange-mango, pure lemon and pure lime. Sexton notes: “We are a family feeding families, ensuring the customer receives only the highest quality juices made from locally-sourced Florida citrus and American produce.”

Marygrace’s early vision of using only the simplest ingredients for her juices has arguably proven to be insightful as Natalie’s products are so admired they are currently sold in more than 30 US states and 24 countries. Sexton says: “Traditionally our orange and grapefruit juices sell very well overseas in a variety of countries like Japan, South Korea, France and more.”

She adds that, as the health and wellness movement continues to build momentum, consumers will continue to appreciate brands such as Natalie’s that are producing authentic foods with minimal ingredients and minimal processing. “Our juices are squeezed fresh and handcrafted in small batches to ensure quality and freshness. Being a clean-label brand, you can guarantee that our juices have no preservatives, no additives, no artificial ingredients, no concentrates and no flavour packs.”

Sexton also reveals that, because the company sources US-grown fresh produce whenever possible, Natalie’s has “the smallest carbon footprint in our industry.” She says: “The consumer is very educated today. As a result, they appreciate locally made and locally sourced brands like Natalie’s. Consumers want to know how their food is being made and who is making it. It is important to understand where your food is coming from and what ingredients are being used to produce it. If companies source outside our country it could possibly be for a cheaper source of ingredient. We try to maintain local – if not in town then in the state – if not in the state then in America. If it’s grown here we buy here. It’s a philosophy of feeding people from the American farmers – supporting Florida growers and American farmers.  It’s the American dream company.”

Natalie's - Orange Squeeze

Developing the juice family

In light of the fact that many consumers are now investing in healthier lifestyles, the firm has just launched a new range of fruit and vegetable combinations. Sexton explains: “We are continuously developing and growing our juice family. The green juice trend has hit the US market with full force. Natalie’s has decided to invest in the self-proclaimed ‘red trend.’ We are handcrafting juices that are squeezed from red fruits and vegetables. We recently launched our orange beet juice and fresh tomato juice.” She happily admits that these new creations are gaining “a lot of attention” amongst juice connoisseurs. “Beets and tomatoes are an excellent source of nutrition. They are becoming the best athletic nutrition you can consume. Beet increases oxygen in the blood, the orange juice helps absorb the beet and the tomato is an excellent recovery source.”

Sexton also points out that the orange beet juice contains just two ingredients – namely Florida oranges and Oregon beets. Meanwhile, the tomato juice is, she claims, the first of its kind. “Most tomato juice brands on the shelf today have one- to two-year shelf lives with upwards of 600mg of sodium. They can contain preservatives, additives and more. Natalie’s fresh tomato juice is squeezed from locally-sourced American tomatoes – nothing more, nothing more less.”

Natalie's - range fruit juices

Strong family values

Evidently, Natalie’s ethical approach to making juice “only from ingredients grown straight from the soil,” coupled with its innovative product development, are a big part of its worldwide appeal. Fresh produce buyers are also likely to observe that the firm’s strong family values and modest approach to business radiates from its brand like Florida sunshine. The team warmly claims, for instance, to be “blessed by God to have the best customers in the world.” Sexton says: “Companies that care about their customers are our customers. We have long-term relationships with all sized retailers, large and small.” CEO Marygrace modestly, and first and foremost, attributes God’s blessings and provisions for the success of the company. Sexton adds: “Other factors that have helped develop the growth of Natalie’s are: exceeding customers’ expectations, producing only the highest quality juices possible, and building an exceptional team of leaders to help drive the company in new directions.”

The firm, which is also run with help from Natalie’s sister Lucy, is certified as being a Women’s Business Enterprise by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. It is therefore continuing to explore new business relationships and opportunities offered by this certification. Sexton says: “As a woman-led company, we believe in supporting other women entrepreneurs and the upcoming generation of women in business.”

Natalie’s is exhibiting The London Produce Show and Conference on June 8-10 at the Grosvenor House hotel.  Register here

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