California-based Perricone Farms is a success story that has been two decades in the making. Established in the 1990s by a renowned citrus grower and packer, the business has since become a leading juice processor and marketer, famed for the quality and provenance of its ingredients. JBT – as Perricone readily acknowledges – played a key role in the development and subsequent success of the business, helping the company improve its juice yield by 20% and acting as a partner in a fruitful relationship that continues to the present day.
Perricone Farms CEO Bob Rovzar has been well-placed to have witnessed the evolution of the Beaumont, California business since it first launched its juice processing venture almost two decades ago. The company’s initial contact with JBT came in the late 1990s under the leadership of JBT’s North America Director of Sales Donn Sabato who approached what Rovzar describes as “a little juice plant in Southern California”. “At that time, our plant paled in comparison to larger juice companies in the US, especially in the West,” recalls Rovzar. “But even in those early days, JBT always treated us as a valued customer and spent time with us. They were a valuable partner as we established the business.”
Perricone Farms as a juicing operation was first established by current managing director Joe Perricone’s father Sam; an industry icon who at the time was a large grower and packer of fresh citrus. The move into juice took place after Perricone acquired a small juicing company – and client of Perricone – that was struggling with financial difficulties.
The juicing business began in earnest with four JBT extractors, plus two non-JBT pieces of machinery – a piecemeal fruit unloading system and a used finisher. “JBT supplied technical expertise, explaining how we should be extracting and setting-up the machinery, as well how to get the maximum yield out of a plant that ran multiple varieties of fruit,” says Rovzar. The company, he recalls, also had a make-shift sizer that was jerry-rigged and made from spare parts.
In its early days, Rozvar says Perricone was 90% focused on orange juice production, and although it remains important, as the market has evolved, so the company has developed a much broader base of juices. Orange juice today accounts for around 50% of Perricone’s production, with the other half sourced from lemons, limes, grapefruit and tangerines. These juices are sold to high-end restaurants and hotels, grocery retail under the Perricone Farms label or retailer owned brands, and to a lesser extent to foodservice distributors and food ingredients processors.
Although the majority of Perricone Farm’s juices are sold within the Western US, the company has begun in more recent times exporting to the Far East and some volumes to Mexico. “In California, the majority of fruit is destined for the fresh market, but because we are part of the Perricone family of companies, we have access to fruit in-season and also benefit from our close proximity to Mexico during the winter months,” says Rovzar.
What has really helped Perricone make a commercial leap forward, says Rovzar, was a move into purpose-built new facility with considerable help and assistance from JBT. “With JBT’s help and support, we have been able to completely rebuild and redo our juice extraction operation without shutting down our existing extraction line,” he explains. “This has been important because we extract juice 365 days a year.
“For several years, people on both side – JBT and Perricone – said the extraction line could not be replaced without shutting down the existing operation, but JBT found a way of running both lines simultaneously for a month while the new operation was put in place. Through JBT’s help, we were able to provide a seamless transition to our customers and we couldn’t have done it without the support, dedication and commitment we received from JBT, from the engineers right up to top management.”
“The process works when the customer takes your information and implements the changes and or suggestions,” explained JBT’s Donn Sabato. “Perricone, to their credit, took the information we presented to them and put it into action under Bob and Joe’s leadership. This area is why Perricone has grown so dramatically in the last few years based on Joe and Bob’s leadership – they are action oriented and work their plan to fruition.”
Moving into the new facility, Perricone implemented the new extraction line with JBT’s partnership and assistance, with the result that it far surpassed the original forecast. “We improved our yield by 15-20% compared with the original forecast 8-10%,” says Rovzar. “It allowed us to capitalize on being able to extract the fruit when it is available and to become competitively positioned in the market. Being able to extract 20% more juice means that we are now better able to satisfy our customer base with juice that was previously going to waste.”
Perricone today has eight extractors, two brand-new finishers and a sizer – all sourced from JBT. It is also investing in new JBT-supported fruit unloading system, which will provide substantial support on effectively handling fruit through to loading into tanks for processing. JBT has also helped establish a citrus oil recovery system at the plant. “We are optimistically looking at other opportunities for working together with JBT in the future,” adds Rovzar. “JBT is our first choice for working together.”