It may be startling to read that more than 120,000 tonnes of food goes into landfills across New Zealand each year, with fruit and vegetable growers often seeing their fruit or veges going to waste simply because of their imperfect shape.
But that won’t happen on Hawke’s Bay apple farmer Ross Beaton’s watch. His low-waste model turns the cosmetically blemished fruit others reject into sustainably sourced, single-pressed apple juice.
Beaton started farming apples in 1982, which quickly led to him growing 1200 acres of apple trees, producing a cool couple of hundred million apples a year and exporting them to 45 countries.
Despite the success, there is an abundant supply of apples that don’t make the crates for export mainly due to cosmetic imperfections. These apples – 13,000 tonnes a year to be exact – get crushed and sent to the processors. “They are basically taking the world’s best apples and destroying them,” Beaton says. So he set out to do something more meaningful with the unwanted fruit.
In a bid to avoid wasting “the world’s best” apples, Beaton sought to start his own juice company, known today as The Apple Press.
The finest produce
“New Zealand is the world’s best place to grow apples and that’s a fact. We are the most innovative country, we have some of the best scientists. We thought ‘oh we’re sitting on potentially a golden goose here, why don’t we make the best apple juices’,” says Beaton.
The Apple Press juices are bottled down the road from the trees on which the fruit is grown in a brand new, state-of-the-art factory. “The provenance of our fruit is important to us, and we simply refuse to add anything to it,” he says. “With The Apple Press, you can not only trace all of these apples to Hawke’s Bay, but to the orchards they came from. And we also have a sustainably-sourced product, in recyclable packaging, that has no added sugar or preservatives.”
The first step to success, says Beaton, was connecting with food innovation specialist Sally Gallagher, who became the project manager turned innovator and strategist for the business. Gallagher and Beaton worked tirelessly on ways to create the purest form of apple juice and a product that had sustainability at its heart. Beaton says they found it particularly difficult to find the technology they needed to produce the apple juice.
“Sally and I were standing in the middle of a paddock one day and we just looked at each other and said, ‘let’s build the factory’.”
As nature intended
Normal apple juice from concentrate is crushed three or four times, then heated with added enzymes to crush all the sugars out. The Apple Press juices, however, are taken through a single press process.
“Most juice companies treat apples the way your grandmother used to treat asparagus,” Beaton explains.
“It’s cooked within an inch of its life ... We don’t do that,” he says. “We press the apple once, to capture all of the flavour and aromas of that apple. It’s then ‘blanched’ and bottled. And that’s it.”
The Apple Press juice range contains no water, no preservatives, and no added sugars.
“We have the world’s best ingredient,” Beaton says. “Why not make the world’s best juice? It’s something I’m proud of. Something I stand by.”
The Apple Press have launched with three apple varieties to start – a braeburn, a royal gala and a jazz juice. And there are plans afoot for more. For more details, visit theapplepress.co.nz