The Apple Press
Producing premium juice from ugly fruit
Within 6 years The Apple Press has created a premium range of single variety apple juices from ‘ugly fruit’ that was going to waste, and they’ve built a state of the art bottling plant with the capacity to bottle up to 50 million bottles a year.
It all started with a cup of coffee between Sally Gallagher, then with the Food Innovation Network and Ross Beaton, a Hawke’s Bay apple man who was exploring value added propositions for ‘ugly fruit’ from local Hawke’s Bay orchards. Ross had a few decades of apple growing under his belt and was keen to find a use for the “ugly” fruit, apples that were handpicked and had all the great taste of the local produce but were deemed too unattractive for export. After scoping various options Ross and Sally hit upon the idea of a premium beverage, an apple juice produced from single varieties of Hawke’s Bay apples like a fine wine or olive oil.
Working at the FoodBowl they produced a trial run of 3225 bottles of single pressed apple juice, and knew they were onto a winner. Then the hard work of finding a facility to commercially manufacture the product began.
They needed a plant with the right technology that could process and bottle the juice to give people the experience of drinking a freshly picked apple. Unable to find a plant that could reproduce the conditions they needed while providing capacity for high export numbers and supermarket chain supply they thought, ‘let’s build our own factory’.
Research quickly showed that the smallest plant they could build would produce thousands of bottles an hour. A high capacity plant and a multi-million dollar build utilising world leading Krones equipment from Germany was decided upon. Having still to sell a single bottle of juice and with a bold vision in hand, they went looking for strategic partners.
Fonterra Brands NZ came onboard, keen to utilise the intended facility for bottling of their Primo and Mammoth milk products. Thirteen months after breaking ground on a site in Whakatu, the plant was in production, bottling milk products for Fonterra. That was shortly followed by the production and launch of The Apple Press into the New Zealand market. With capacity still available the team are now working to build sales and exports. Presently they’re exporting to Australia, Japan and Singapore and are also working on entry to other key Asian markets.
The Apple Press has a number of single variety apple juices including JazzTM, EnvyTM, Braeburn, Pink Lady® and Royal Gala. They’ve also a number of blends where specific apple varieties are paired with other fruits including Hawke’s Bay Pear, New Zealand Feijoa, and Valenica orange; and “wellness” ingredients such as Canterbury Beetroot, Apple Cider Vinegar, Hawke’s Bay Blueberry and Lime, Ginger & Manuka Honey.
The apples are handpicked from local Hawke's Bay orchards and cool-stored immediately to protect their fresh flavour. Sally explains many juice companies press fruit multiple times but The Apple Press presses the fruit only once, “like a good olive oil or wine”. This produces a clean, unique flavour profile. Each apple juice has a ’sweet-o-meter’ to help consumers choose a variety that works for them – from tart to sweet.
There is no added sugar, water or preservatives. The apples are cold- pressed, the juice is flash pasteurised, rapidly cooled and bottled using an aseptic process. The bottle is formed on site through a blow moulding process. Cold filling means that less plastic is needed in the bottle, reducing plastic use, and it’s recyclable. Onsite lab tests check for temperature, brix, pH, and vitamin C content.
The end product is sold at a competitive price point, on par with market leaders. In the last 12 months the company has seen its apple varieties drive growth in chilled apple juice sales by +40% in a leading domestic supermarket chain. Source: Nielsen Scantrack | Total Chilled Fruit Juice | Total Hero Supermarket Chain | Period: MAT to 06/10/2019 vs YA
In 2019 the JazzTM varietal was awarded the Black Box NZ Gold Medal. and in 2018, the “Best Non-Alcoholic Beverage” at the NZ Food Awards.
Asked how production and success has come so quickly and Sally mentions the importance of good strategic partnerships and “good people”. They source their apples from T&G, licensing the JazzTM and EnvyTM trade marks for those varieties. The relationship with T&G Global enables them to trace all their apples back to the orchard they came from. This traceability is valuable for food safety records and for consumers who are increasingly demanding to know where their food and beverages have come from. It also assures authenticity and future opportunities for limited edition juices.
The relationship with Fonterra Brands NZ has been very important in a number of areas. Technically, Fonterra has world-leading experts in the area of aseptic processing. This advice and support is made available on an as needed basis as part of the collaboration arrangement. While not actively seeking more strategic partners they remain open to interest.
Meeting MPI food safety & compliance regulations including export and Overseas Market Access Requirements (OMARs) has been a big part of the set up. Sally notes that ‘the power of the right people’ has been integral here with expertise from their partners as well as MPI.
Their plant operates both a FCP (Food Control Plan) and a dairy RMP (Risk Management Plan) so can manufacture both juice and milk products.
There are many future plans at Apple Press, with registration for new export markets in the pipeline, to get the plant working at full capacity.
Showdown Productions Ltd – Rural Delivery Series 15 2020