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Locally made cold press is gold standard for juicers

Dale Wettlaufer was a rocket scientist, which made him perfectly suited for a job building military defense equipment. But the aerospace engineer was uneasy about contributing to the war industry and wanted to devote his talents to something more positive.

So, in 1976, he walked away from his stable, well-paying career and retreated to his home in the woods of East Aurora. Soon after, a neighboring farmer asked him to build a juice press he could use to make apple cider for his roadside stand.

Today, that juice press is the gold standard in commercial cold-pressed juicing equipment – the minimal juice processing method behind a more than $350 million retail market and the fastest growing trend in the beverage industry.

Wettlaufer’s company, Goodnature, has gone from selling the occasional press out of his barn, to becoming the largest industrial cold press maker in the nation filling multiple orders for powerhouse companies around the world – companies such as Whole Foods, BluePrint Cleanse and Starbucks subsidiary Evolution Fresh. It has opened a total of four new facilities – including a distribution center in Australia to ship the Buffalo-made machines to customers in the Eastern hemisphere. It is also about to add a 10,000-square-foot addition to its Bud-Mil Drive site on Buffalo’s East Side. In 2013, it launched a sister company, Pomeroy Equipment, that focuses solely on nurturing and training startup cold-pressed juice companies around the world.

“People always said if you build a better mousetrap, they’ll beat a path to your door,” Wettlaufer said. “No one said it would take 40 years.”

All three of Dale’s children are part owners and help run the business. Son Eric is Goodnature’s vice president. Son Charlie is CEO of Las Vegas-based Pomeroy. Daughter Paige Drake is the company’s director of public engagement.

Paige calls her family’s rise to success an “accidental David and Goliath” story. Her dad always cared more about quality than success, she said, so when consumers and the juice industry made quality paramount, his inventions were right there waiting.

“It’s just so amazing that one person following their heart can impact an entire industry,” she said.

Ancient model

The Goodnature design is patterned after the rack and cloth press, an ancient method used to make extra virgin olive oil. With that labor-intensive and time-consuming process, shredded olives are folded into cloth pouches, stacked on wooden racks, then pressed together to release their oil. Goodnature’s models work in a similar way. The fruit, vegetables or nuts are fed into a tube, where a blade slices them into a salsa-like “pomace.” The pomace is fed into open-top mesh bags, which the machine presses together to release the juice. The juice fills a receptacle beneath the bags, where it’s poured into bottles or glasses.

The method is a way to minimally process the produce, shredding it only as much as necessary without abusing it, keeping nutrients intact and keeping it in as close to its raw, natural state as possible.

It’s a stark contrast to the highly processed method used by most mainstream juice producers, which destroys enzymes and oxidizes nutrients.

“When I first invented it, I was really excited and I thought ‘This is going to revolutionize the juice industry,’ ”  Dale said.

But decades went by with little fanfare. Then consumer demand for high-quality, healthy, minimally processed food kicked into high gear. Suddenly, Goodnature presses were in demand.

Cold press craze

The small, quality-focused companies that had started out with Wettlaufer’s equipment started to explode, and Goodnature expanded alongside them. Two of Goodnature’s first customers were Odwalla and Naked Juice. Coca-Cola acquired Odwalla for $181 million in 2001. Naked Juice was acquired by Pepsi in 2007.

Most of Goodnature’s growth exploded in just the past two years, as cold-pressed juices came into vogue. Demand for raw, pure fruit and vegetable juices left the specialty niche of Malibu juice bars and entered mainstream supermarkets.

Consumers are increasingly focused on health and wellness. People care intensely about where food comes from and how it’s made. Juice detoxes and juice cleanses are sold at home parties the way Avon products once were. All those conditions have ripened the market for cold-pressed juices.

Home juicing has been trending, too. But the process is so messy and time-consuming, it quickly gives way to consumers purchasing cold-pressed juice instead of making juice themselves. They’re willing to pay $6 to $12 a bottle because they know the amount of vegetables it takes and what it costs to produce a single glass of juice.

Chris DeLorenzo, originally a home juicer himself, owns Squeeze Juicery in Williamsville. Living in L.A. in 1995, he knew there was a market for fruit and vegetable drinks when he watched how many customers passed through a busy corner smoothie bar in his neighborhood. That smoothie bar later became Jamba Juice, the publicly traded company with $229 million in annual revenue.

“The gears in my head started to turn and I started thinking, smoothies, juicing, it’s such a pain, and people would probably pay other people to do it for them,” DeLorenzo said.

He started a cold-pressed juice cleanse company out of his home which grew by word of mouth. He opened his shop on Main Street in 2013 and is about to open a second location on Elmwood Avenue.

“I was so shocked when I was researching commercial juicers and found out the largest provider of commercial juicers in the country is right here,” DeLorenzo said, referring to Goodnature.

Market growing

Experts predict the biggest growth for Goodnature is yet to come. The cold-pressed juice industry is expected to keep growing, especially if consumers begin using the beverages for meal replacement as they do now with protein drinks such as Muscle Milk, which was acquired by Hormel last year for $450 million.

Goodnature’s latest press model is auspicious, too. Whereas other press models are so large, users have to plan the rest of their facility or kitchen around them, the newest press is small enough to be set on a tabletop.

They’re also inexpensive enough for every coffee shop, grocery store and restaurant to get into cold-pressed juice game. That opens the industry to tens of thousands of potential new customers who otherwise couldn’t have jumped on the trend, according to John Craven, founder and CEO of BevNet.com.

“Personally, I think that’s the game changer right there,” he said.

email: schristmann@buffnews.com