More than a sideline
Rich in nutritional benefit, apple juice can also be a significant contributor to a healthy bottomline for apple growers.
By Susan McIver S
ome orchardists, such as the Keller family, owners of Worrenberg Farms Natural Juice and Fruits, specialize in the production of juice while others sell juice as a way to diversify income.
In 1983, Herbert and Margrith Keller started their juice business under the porch, using a small rack and cloth press.
They had arrived in Fort St. John from Switzerland the year before and quickly realized the Similkameen Valley was a more suitable location to pursue farming.
The name Worrenberg was selected for their newly-acquired orchard, because Herbert had grown up on a vineyard of the same name in his native land. Today, the Kellers produce 500,000 litres of apple juice a year. “It’s a big family achievement,” said Herbert, who attributes success to keeping the business within the family and to never relying on banks.
“Dad’s philosophy has always been to build step-by-small-step,” said Markus Keller, who is now in charge of the family business.
In 1984, the Kellers started building a spacious three-level processing facility on a hillside.
They now have millions of dollars invested in processing equipment. “It took 20 years to get a filling line. Before we filled by hand,” said Markus, illustrating the family’s step-by-step principle.
A large second-hand press purchased in Germany has recently been put into operation.
“It’s especially important to have such a press when we do big contracts,” Markus said.
Approximately 90 percent of the juice produced at the farm is made from
apples purchased from local organic farmers or packinghouses. Worrenberg supplies Vincor with close to 250,000 litres a year for its Growers Cider.
Custom processing of organic juice sold under various labels accounts for approximately 200,000 litres. Juice bearing the Worrenberg label accounts for 10 percent of production and comes from apples grown in the family orchard.
Worrenberg Apple Juice is available to select local health food and grocery stores.
“I do not use organophosphates, only integrated pest management techniques,” said Markus.
Customers with stomach disorders often ask Markus why they can drink Worrenberg juice without experiencing distress, but not other brands. “Worrenberg is 100 percent natural with no hidden chemicals. We grind and squeeze the apples, pasteurize the juice and bottle it,” he said. The other three Keller family principles for small businesses are to find a niche, not to become so big as to threaten large companies, and to stay ahead of the curve.
Markus Keller, left, is now in charge of the family business, Worrenberg Farms Natural Juice and Fruits, started by his father Herbert, right, and mother, Margrith, in 1983.
British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2011
Production of high-end grape juice is among Markus’ ideas of how to stay ahead of the curve. These juices are popular with adults in Europe, who want to experience the refined taste of wine grapes without the alcohol. “I am thinking about planting Pinot Noir and Moscato vines in
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