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After 60 Years, Third-Generation Family Business Seeks Change and Continued Innovation

May 08th, 2019

Geneva, N.Y. – After celebrating their 60th anniversary last year, the Nicholson family has turned its focus to evolving and growing its third-generation business in Geneva, N.Y. With over 400 acres of fruit orchards and a rapidly expanding fresh beverage business, Red Jacket Orchards is making strategic changes prior to the first blooms of the 2019 crop to better position the company for strong growth in a rapidly evolving agriculture sector. The restructuring includes family ownership changes, a reduction of orchards and a continued expansion of beverage investments.

“We haven’t been in business for 60 years without constantly evaluating our strategic plans and focusing investments on profitable growth,” says Brian Nicholson, President and CEO. “The market is constantly changing and challenging us to deliver fresh food choices that add value.” Accordingly, starting in 2019, Red Jacket plans to put its focus squarely on the beverage business. “We continue to be inspired by the exponential growth of, and demand for, our 100%, all natural juice products,” Brian said. “We have known for some time that it would be a challenge to grow two capital intensive businesses at the same time, and so after the impacts of several crop losses, we decided this spring to turn our focus primarily to the beverage side.”

Freshly pressing whole fruit and bottling juice has become the dominant business segment for the family. “Our beverage sales have been growing steadily at 10-25% annually for 10 years now, representing 80% of total sales,” noted Brian. Red Jacket’s fresh, cold pressed juices are shipped all along the East Coast, throughout the Mid-West and as far west as Texas. In 2010, in order to serve customers’ growing needs, RJO undertook a major expansion of its beverage business by building a sustainable, 25,000 square-foot facility, with LEED certification, and powered by 100% green energy. “Sometimes you get to a fork in the road, especially in a high capital business, and you have to pick which market will reward you most,” said Nicholson.

Joe Nicholson Jr., the company’s second-generation owner, plans to continue running the orchards and producing Red Jacket’s unique seasonal fruit that has become sought after on the east coast. “Growing great tasting fruit that wows customers is what’s driven us for the past 45 years,” says Joe with a grin. “I love that, and I’m still doing it. What could be better? As a family we have a passion and commitment to grow fruits that drive excitement.” Good news for the local customer is that Red Jacket’s Geneva, N.Y. retail store will continue to offer the high-quality, orchard-grown fruits they’re known for, including berries, apricots, peaches, plums, rhubarb, and of course, apples. Joe went on to add that the 2019 season is shaping up well.

“Just as Mother Nature has always required us to be on our toes and ready for change, so too does the ever evolving market place,” noted third-generation owner Mark Nicholson. “The changes we are making at Red Jacket are all part of this process, and we are confident that these changes will make the business more successful in the years to come.” 

“I’m fortunate to be where I am today because of my family. Not just because of my grandparents who started the business, or my Dad who worked methodically to grow it, but for the foundation they provided,” reflected Brian. “Today I get to work with the best people, who share a mission to add value to everyone nourished by our products. They are our customers, partners, staff and the greater community we serve.”

Red Jacket plans to expand its beverage sales all along the Eastern United States and to double sales of its all natural beverage products over the next 5 years. Expanding customers and products will be the primary focus for the company in the years ahead.

Located in the scenic Finger Lakes Region of New York State, Red Jacket Orchards is a third-generation family business with a rich history of growing and producing renowned fresh fruits and juices. Today the focus is on expanding distribution nationwide of its best-in-class cold-pressed 100% juice. The Geneva, N.Y.-based company operates a state-of-the-art pressing facility with LEED Certification that is powered by 100% green energy. Driven by core values, Red Jacket’s mission is to inspire purposeful, healthier choices by making more delicious and nutritious foods. To create value for its partners, and drive a culture that nurtures its land, people, and community

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