Squeezing Extra Hard on Market for Apple Juice

Associated Press

That golden glow in your glass of apple juice isn't looking so rich these days.

Flat sales and high costs have some of the nation's largest processors searching for new ways to squeeze cash out of culls. Much of the activity is in central Washington, which grows more than half of the nation's apples.

Some companies are testing "natural" apple juices that cost more. Others are diversifying into dried and frozen apple products or pushing for more exports.

Seneca and Tree Top--the nation's apple juice leaders, along with Mott's--are starting high-end juices aimed at adults.

Seneca bills its Orchard Tap "the first apple juice that looks, smells and tastes like fresh apples."

The translucent white juice, made at the company's plant in Prosser, is being test-marketed in Washington state for about $2.99 per half-gallon. That's about $1 more than a bottle of regular juice.

Tree Top, based in Selah, last year began test-marketing Fiber Rich, a similar product.

"Both Seneca and Tree Top are forward-looking organizations that are saying there are lots of ways to press apple juice," said Shelley Page, business manager for Seneca Foods Corp., which is based in Pittsford, N.Y.

They are also responding to new federal laws. The Food and Drug Administration will soon require fiber content to be listed on the labels of apple juice, and no one wants to post a big zero there, said Larry Davenport of the Processed Apple Institute in Atlanta.

Mott's, the nation's best-selling brand, is not introducing a new type, said Beth Ostendarp, spokeswoman for Cadbury Beverages, the firm's parent, based in Stamford, Conn. But the company for years has sold a murky juice billed as 100% pure.

Originally, most apple juice was simply pressed apple cider, which was dark-colored and pungent. That was replaced about 50 years ago by the highly processed, clear, golden juice that is still the most popular, Page said.

Most apple juice is consumed by children. Adults often find it too sweet or too bland and prefer citrus juices, Page said.

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