– ‘It’s just old-fashioned kitchen work.’
– Nearly 90 years ago, William G. Roe and his family started planting tangerines in Central Florida, which they packed and shipped from their new Winter Haven packinghouse. Today, not only does the family still grow, pack and ship tangerines and other fruit, they continue to develop new tangerine-based (and other) specialty juices.
“Last year, we wanted to come up with some new, creative blends that would take advantage of some of the new flavors and ingredients that were becoming popular,” said Morgan Roe, president of Blue Lake Citrus, the juice company operated by the Roe Family. “But we still wanted to stay close to our tangerine roots. So we began developing certain varietals of tangerine juice and using them in interesting combinations with different ingredients. We were really excited about some of them, so we decided to go ahead and see what consumers thought.”
The company released several juices last year, and most did well, including two of Roe’s favorites – Caribbean, a tangerine-guava-mango combination, and Royal Mandarin Greens. “We’re really pleased with the success of that one,” said Roe. “The royal mandarin or temple orange is classified as a tangerine. It has a unique tart flavor that blends amazingly well with greens such as spinach and kale. We’ve had people tell us it’s the best-tasting green juice they’ve ever had.”
Roe says the company dreams up the creative flavors using traditional methods. “First we look for flavors that are trending, and then we source those ingredients and we begin to think OK, how do we make this? How do we incorporate these ingredients into the mix? And then it’s just old-fashioned kitchen work. You open the pantry and you start blending things together. If you hit something you think is good, you tweak it, you sample it, and then you take it out to some consumers and see if they agree with you. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.”
The company sells six new flavors in Florida through Publix and Whole Foods, and in many retail outlets concentrated in the Northeast. It’s also growing its distribution across the rest of the United States and Canada.
Fortunately, citrus greening disease, an enormous threat to the Florida citrus industry, hasn’t hurt their specialty juice production. “We’re not Tropicana or Simply Orange. We don’t have to have a third of the state’s crop to make our brand successful. We just have to cream off the very best of the best. And that’s our brand,” Roe said.
“We’re always trying something new, but we try to stay true to our roots by offering small-batch, artisan-crafted exceptional tangerine juice,” said Roe. “We try to come up with some creative ways to make that particular line appealing and interesting. We started out making these blends thinking this is a direction that will appeal to millennials, and I think we have. But at the same time, as we’ve done more consumer work, we’re finding that there are a lot of people throughout the age spectrum who are making the same kind of lifestyle choices where they can get a positive benefit health-wise from our naturally pure juice blends.
“It’s a smart crowd. If they’re going to consume calories or carbs, we have to offer them a drink that has some function, nutritional value and fun to it. We think that our products have fun and excitement from the flavor standpoint and also great nutrition. The bonus is that they are hand-crafted by a family company that’s been doing it for four generations,” said Roe.