The better-for-you orange juice is made with not from concentrate Gisborne orange juice, and vitamin C using the liposomal process which helps increase absorption.
The idea for this product was conceptualised two years ago when the owners of Woodlands farm in Gisborne, New Zealand, wanted to expand its orange business.
The family farm has been growing oranges since 1973 and supplying to wholesalers who then sells them to supermarkets, restaurants, and small volumes for export.
Some of the oranges are also freshly juiced and sold at farmers markets and music festivals in New Zealand. At popular music festivals, they can sell up to 5,000L of orange juice over three days.
The farm reached out to James Crow, who is now co-founder and managing director of ‘73 citrus, to help with business expansion.
“In New Zealand, oranges are growing all the time, but people only drink orange juice for breakfast a few times a week. It deserves to be looked at and be innovated.
“We were looking at different ways of turning the family oranges into a product that was good, interesting, exciting, and different.”
So, they came up with a sparkling orange juice with liposomal vitamin C and launched into market this April.
According to Crow, liposomal vitamin C was readily available in New Zealand, and taken for immunity functions.
“It slows down the digestion, increases the time that your body can absorb the vitamins, before you flush it out naturally.
“This technology is not new, and have been used in food and supplement applications worldwide.
I don't believe anyone ever put it into a beverage.”
Each can (330mL) contains 1,165mg of vitamin C, of which 1,000mg is from liposomal vitamin C and the rest comes naturally from the orange juice.
The company uses a non-GMO soy lecithin which encapsulates the vitamin C. It had initially tried sunflower oil, but it had too strong a taste.
“Traditional vitamin C goes through the body too fast to be absorbed. But if it is inside of oil, your body treats it like a food, so it digests that more slowly,” Crow said.
‘73 citrus made it into a sparkling juice, and pasteurised it to give a 12-month shelf life, which would help with export purposes in the future.
Pasteurisation helps reduce yeast growth which is prone in orange juice.
The OJ product is juiced and canned in Hawke’s Bay, with the oranges from the farm in Gisborne.
Currently, the sparkling OJ are sold direct to consumers through ‘73 citrus online store.
They have also been invited to retail in cafes, restaurants, and are now beginning discussions with supermarket chains.
“They see a real point of difference in the product, because it is not just a juice or soda, it's something more, and something new and interesting,” Crow added.
As it continues to work on scaling up and bringing manufacturing costs down, it will explore export opportunities.
Singapore is a potential market which it hopes to enter by the end of this year, “the interest in new and quality products in Singapore is great.” Australia was another potential market.
‘73 citrus hopes to introduce more orange-based beverage products which will meet needs from other markets.
“We hope to find better ways for people to enjoy oranges, especially with added benefits.”
This meant exploring other technologies, vitamins and minerals that compliment the basic orange juice yet offer health benefits.