What is in this article?:
• The inspiration for the juice company Marygrace Sexton founded came in 1989.
• She credits her husband, Robert Sexton, a fourth generation Florida citrus grower who, with his family, runs a packing house at Vero Beach, for planting the thought in her head.
• The idea was to have a premium value-added orange juice, all Florida, all the time. Florida oranges are the best juicing oranges in the world.
JOHN MARTINELLI, left, Orchid Island Juice Company’s executive vice-president, was his sister Marygrace Sexton’s only fulltime employee when she started the business.
One full-time employee
Thirty days after she started the business, Marygrace’s brother, John Martinelli, joined Orchid Island Juice Company. Now the company’s executive vice-president, at the time he was Marygrace’s only full-time employee.
John, who towers above his petite sister, played center on Georgetown College’s football team and was NAIA and AFCA first-team All-America in 1978. In 2011, he was named to the Georgetown College Athletics Hall of Fame.
Marygrace, John and the Martinelli family’s two other sons grew up in Connecticut and south Florida. John had enough confidence in his sister’s abilities to not hesitate joining her team.
“Her level of dedication and commitment to excellence is difficult to aspire to. She’s a perfectionist in every way. In a company like ours, where the emphasis is on quality, that’s a great thing,” says John, who is two years older than his sister. Their younger brother Bill works as the company’s Midwest sales representative.
“This company has a very distinctive boss. Marygrace has the vision and the goals and we are invited to be part of them. We are allowed to have opinions. Sometimes suggestions are accepted and implemented, and sometimes not. If they don’t meet with her standards, we go in another direction.”
Over the past 23 years, Marygrace’s fledgling company she was advised not to launch grew to become established in the juice business, now with sales in seven countries in addition to the U.S.
In a business dominated by large corporations, her family-owned juice company not only found a market but also flourished and now employs 85 people, headquartered in Ft. Pierce.
It thrived, she says, because of consumers’ drive for authenticity as well as high quality in their food.
“We’re family-owned and will remain family-owned because that’s the only way to control quality. We don’t want to become a huge company. What we want is to make premium juice products,” she says.
Along the way, they bagged numerous taste-test awards. Cook’s Illustrated, Good Housekeeping, Real Simple, bon appetit and the NBC Today show all have cited Natalie’s as the best-tasting orange juice.
The reason it tastes so good? Marygrace says it’s because the juice is fresh-squeezed daily, year-round.
‘Florida growers produce incredibly good oranges. That makes good juice. We just put that goodness in a jug. We put nothing in the juice and take nothing out of the juice. Our orange juice is pasteurized for the shortest length of time possible so it retains the taste, the enzymatic activity and the nutritional value of the juice right out of the orange,” she says.
The ‘flash pasteurization’ process heats juice to 170 degrees for six seconds. Then it is quickly dropped to 33 degrees.