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.
“We don’t cook it until the flavor is destroyed. We do what has to be done, and that’s it,” Marygrace says.
“When a customer orders juice, those oranges are squeezed that night. It’s put on a truck at 4 a.m., the next morning. If it goes overseas, the jugs of juice are quick-frozen, then put right on a container ship. I don’t call the juice ‘natural’ because that’s become an over-used word. It’s just an orange, squeezed that day. That’s all it is. There’s nothing but orange juice in it.”
Natalie Sexton, a baby when her mother embarked on this business journey, is now 23. In the early days, Natalie often slept in a car seat in the juice plant as her mother oversaw the nighttime juicing operation.
“We squeeze juice at night so we can get that juice out on refrigerator trucks as fast as possible. We don’t want to squeeze and then have the juice sitting around, waiting to be shipped. That’s why we run all night. We do things a little differently than a lot of other people in the business,” she says.
Just about everything the company does involves quality.
“We want fruit running 12-to-14 Brix. We want beautiful, premium fruit. We look for the best fruit out there. We have upheld our commitment to only use Florida oranges for 23 years,” she says.
“Our growers range from the largest growers in the state to smaller ones. We’re accustomed to dealing on that level and work with as many individual growers as we can. We like to have long-term commitments with people who are entrenched in their crop.”
Because weather conditions affect quality, the company must stay light on its feet.
“We have to be on top of things and monitor market trends and international weather. This is why we use a diverse network of growers stretching from south Florida to central Florida and the northern growing areas. If there’s a freeze or hurricane, we still need to be able to get fruit,” she says.
Overseas customers are particularly demanding, and the company is all about keeping them happy. That means upholding strict quality standards.
“Our international business is extremely specific on what they want. The Japanese are even more stringent than the Europeans. They’re very knowledgeable about fresh fruit and natural products. Our product is scrutinized intensely when it’s marketed to a new customer. They want to make sure the claims we make are true and correct,” says Frank Tranchilla, Orchid Island’s general manager.