Private Equity Spoiled Natalie’s Juice Company. Then the Founder Rebottled it into a 140M Success

Across town from Tropicana’s ­factory in Fort Pierce, Florida, which ­swallows dozens of truckloads of or­anges each run and fills the air with the sting of bitter peel oil, Marygrace Sexton is walking through the considerably smaller juice plant she owns. At 7 p.m. the first of six semis rolls up with 50,000 pounds of fruit. Workers check each orange for bruising before a claw-like machine juices it. By 3 a.m., 30,000 gallons will start flowing into bottles.

While Tropicana’s juice can remain for a year in million-gallon tanks covered with a blanket of nitrogen, Sexton’s product is shipped out later that morning. “Feed your body like you want it to treat you,” the tan, athletic 60-year-old says. “We were making fresh juice before it was chic.”

It was in 1989 that Sexton was inspired to compete with the preservative-laced cartons on supermarket shelves. With $20,000 she had saved from a job as a radiologist’s receptionist, she installed two 1,000-gallon stainless steel tanks and a juicer in a shack surrounded by groves and borrowed a butcher’s refrigerated truck to deliver the first pallet herself. Thus was born Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Co., Natalie referring to Sexton’s first child, born nine months before.

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