Juice maker impressed with Dinuba plant’s potential

Pressed Juicery retools former Odwalla juice plant in Dinuba using high pressure sterilization to preserve natural fruit flavors; will open first retail store in Fresno in 2022

DINUBA – Start-up juice companies Odwalla and Pressed Juicery were each launched on a shoestring by their visionary founders, both out of a garage or broom closet along the California coast. Both grew exponentially and settled on making fresh squeezed juice in the heart of the state’s tree-fruit belt, in Dinuba, Calif.

Odwalla grew fast but later stumbled and then closed sometime after it was sold to Coca Cola.

Six years later, another company, Pressed Juicery, is carrying on at the same 220,000 square foot Odwalla complex that Coke abandoned. Chief supply chain officer Mike Stokes said Pressed sought out a number of the former Odwalla employees who lost their jobs in 2016 as the company started up.

Despite some similarities like their young and dedicated customer base there is a big difference between how Odwalla and Pressed Juicery process the product, explains Stokes. Odwalla originally sold unpasteurized juices, claiming that the process of pasteurization altered the natural flavor of the juice. Following an E. coli outbreak and the death of at least one child, a story that made national news, Odwalla adopted flash pasteurization to ensure pathogens were eliminated. This changed the fresh juice industry as many adopted heat-treated processing.

Pressed on technology

By contrast, the Pressed Juicery company embraces pressure—high pressure. Instead of pasteurization of the ingredients they put the juice in a high pressure (HPP) machine that allows those ‘just picked’ flavors to stay strong while eliminating any pathogens.

By processing foods at extremely high water pressure (up to 87,000 pounds per square inch, more than the deepest ocean), HPP machines neutralize listeria, salmonella, E. coli and other deadly bacteria.

Unlike thermal, chemical and other high-heat treatments, HPP runs cold, says the equipment maker. It doesn’t alter food taste, texture or quality, or require loads of chemicals to stay “fresh.” Even better, it can extend shelf life up to two or three times longer than traditional preservation methods.

Like the former tenant, Pressed was launched on a small scale back in 2010, propelled by a personal campaign to make healthy juice and smoothies. It began by squeezing orange juice with a second-hand juicer.

In Odwalla’s case, the first squeeze happened in Half Moon Bay, Calif. Pressed Juicery founder Hayden Slater and his partners convinced a local LA cupcake shop to lend their kitchen at night so he had a place to make juice. Almost every night, from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., he would be there. It started in a broom closet beneath a yoga studio in Brentwood, Calif., Slater stated in a published interview.

Both had a vision beyond making money describing their enterprises as a way to “save the planet.” Odwalla’s founders- three jazz musicians- proclaimed a desire to “nourish people everywhere, respect our planet, protect the soil, and create products good for the soul.”

Pressed’s philosophy says “Real, plant-based food holds the power to not only nourish our bodies but inspire a lifelong wellness journey. At Pressed, we think everyone deserves to enjoy the best of what nature has to offer, which is why we’re dedicated to making wholesome nutrition as accessible as possible.”

Pressed is a leading plant-based beverage, snacks, and treats brand focused on providing people with delicious, accessible, real-food that inspires healthier living, according to the company. Its vertically integrated model provides access to cold-pressed juices, functional shots, alternative milks, and plant-based soft serve through more than 90 retail stores, 2,000 wholesale doors, and a direct-to-consumer e-commerce platform.

Since its inception in 2010, Pressed has become one of the fastest-growing retailers in the United States and is the most followed juice brand on social media, according to Pressed. The company claims it is a brand of choice for health and wellness followers yet are approachable to everyday consumers striving to make positive changes in their lifestyles.

Today, the chain has plans to expand further in the Eastern U.S. including Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. They are already in New York. Beyond juice, the company now offers coffee, smoothies and plant-based soft-serve treats.

Dinuba impressed

Stokes, chief supply chain officer for Pressed, tells the story of how founder Slater spent time with tech billionaire Elon Musk who told him “Tesla would not have existed without first acquiring the former automotive plant in Fremont, Calif., the Nummi manufacturing facility, for pennies on the dollar. Musk paid $42 million for the former GM-Toyota joint-venture facility, considered a bargain that helped launch the electric car era.

The story illustrates the importance of a key low-cost acquisition at the early stage of a company’s growth that makes all the difference.

For Slater, “the empty Dinuba juice plant was his Nummi, even though he didn’t need it for at least three years,” Stokes said. The price tag has not been released but the plant came full of equipment when it was purchased in 2016, unlike the Musk’s deal. “Coke just walked away,” Stokes adds.

By 2017, Salter began bottling in Dinuba for other companies including the current bottling for Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar, a fast growing health food with all kinds of wellness uses, even as a shampoo.

This month, Pressed installed its first $7 million HPP cold press machine to process fruit and vegetable juice that will end up in company bottles. The company is now gearing up to make Dinuba one of their key manufacturing headquarters.

Retail impression

Unlike Odwalla’s approach, Pressed Juicery has nearly 100 of their own retail stores where the great majority of the juice is sold. This is despite the fact that their juice is the number one seller at major organic retailers like Sprouts in a crowded refrigerated juice aisle.

Now they will open their first retail store in the San Joaquin Valley, says Stokes, early next year at the Villaggio Shopping Center in Fresno. The company is slated to open 30 new in 2022.

Pressed operates another bottling facility in Fresno, off Highway 99 and Jensen, where they employ about 70. By this coming year Stokes estimates employment at the Dinuba plant should climb to 125 to 150 even though both facilities will be operating. About 70% of the produce coming into the Tulare County plant comes from a radius of around 200 miles including from local growers like Bee Sweet, Stokes said.

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