Watsonville's oldest company, Martinelli's, is doing its best to stay fresh in the fruit juice world.
The business—founded in 1868, the same year the city was incorporated—is benefiting from a bigger foreign fan base while testing out new flavor combinations at home.
"We're having really good success," said S. John Martinelli, company president and the great-grandson of its founder, Stephen G. Martinelli. "We have a lot to be thankful for, a lot to be hopeful for. We're here to stay."
The company operates two plants in Watsonville. The facilities cover 20 acres, top 450,000 square feet and employ more than 250 people locally while producing its lines of juices, sparkling juices, single serve sizes, organic juices, lemonades and Fruit Virtues, its new juice blends that include superfruit like acai and pomegranate.
"They blend really well with other juices," Martinelli said of the superfruits. The exotic fruits are mixed with blueberry, concord white grape and pear, to name a few.
There's also the always-popular Martinelli's Sparkling Apple Cider. The company president said the drink has found a niche as an alcohol alternative. Because of that identity, the company has no plans to expand into hard apple cider.
Martinelli's products seem to be carried just about everywhere, from mom-and-pop grocery stores to Costco. Martinelli's is sold in Mexico, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong and the company is trying to expand into mainland China. Their biggest export? Korea, where Starbucks and Costco got people behind the product.
"We're just shocked," Martinelli said of the success abroad.
The ciders are pressed at the East Beach Street plant across from Watsonville High School; the rest down off West Beach Street, in Watsonville's industrial neighborhood.
"We squeeze them like an accordion and the juice comes running out like a rain forest," Martinelli said of the apples.
Martinelli's uses only fresh apples grown and handpicked in the U.S. for its products.
Once, all Martinelli's juice came from Pajaro Valley-grown apples that linger on the tree into the fall and have a sweeter, more robust flavor. But these days the Pajaro Valley no longer produces enough apples to fill the juice maker's needs; higher-value crops have usurped the apple orchards.
The company would like to get back to its roots and source more local fruit.
"We're actually working on a plan to start replanting here," Martinelli said. "That's one of our next-step strategies."
The new orchards may be planted around Watsonville, as well as in Hollister and San Benito Count, he said.
Editor's note: This is one in a series about unique Watsonville businesses. Read more here.
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