JustOne Organics, a Southern Oregon company, is pioneering a new process of “gently drying” organic fruits and vegetables into a crystal form for use in such products as smoothies, soups, salads and sauces.
The company has its first pilot drying plant up and running in Klamath Falls, OR, and expects to build a network of facilities near growing regions over the next several years. A fully functional facility will be able to dry about seven million pounds of locally grown organic fruits and vegetables annually producing about 700,000-800,000 pounds of crystalline flakes or crystals.
Founder David Rose expects another facility to be opened in Pescadero, CA, which is just north of Santa Cruz, within 18-24 months. “We are expecting to have about 10 locations around the country,” he said, adding that his plan is to take the concept worldwide with eventually opening 100 locations around the world.
David Rose, founder, JustOne Organics
Rose touts the effort as a win win for both organic growers and consumers. The gentle drying process will give a profitable home to organic growers for their number two product, and the intense flavor, aroma and nutritional content will give consumers and processors a quick and easy way to super-boost their smoothies.
In charting the path to JustOne Organics, Rose traces the story back to the Hawaiian island of Molokai in the late 1990s. At the time, he was living the island life and running a successful consulting business from a pretty nice perch. A colleague secured a grant from USDA to help local farmers grow crops that could sustain their existence. He enlisted Rose’s help and the business consultant was soon delving into agriculture and the economics of farming.
David Rose, founder, JustOne Organics
That led to the development of a market for organic taro and soon Rose had good demand and sufficient supplies to make it work. He analyzed the supply/demand curve for fresh crops and determined the key lies in creating the demand and then contracting the supplies. He reasoned that if he could create global demand for a shelf-stable fruit and vegetable byproduct, he would have a winner.
About a half a dozen years ago, the idea of creating crystals was born and he has been perfecting the system ever since.
The Oregon pilot facility was recently completed, and work has been concluded on the drying process for 21 different organic fruits and vegetables. Rose said each product has a different water content so the proprietary process for each item is different but there are some basic similarities.
If the product comes into the plant as a fresh fruit or vegetable, it is first pureed and then “gently” dried and packaged. The gentle aspect of the drying is a key component, says Rose. The facility can also handle product that has already been lightly processed such as IQF (individually quick frozen) berries.
JustOne broccoli crystals
Currently, JustOne Organics is presenting the crystals in two different packages: a 100 gram retail pack and one kilo bag. Raspberry crystals are the firm’s top seller at this point. One hundred grams, which is about 3.5 ounces, sells for $15 while the one-kilo foodservice bag sells for about $43 per pound. Rose said these prices are much more competitive than what is typically charged – on a per ounce basis – for freeze dried products.
He said it takes about 1100 raspberries to produce a pound of crystals with the ratio being 7.5 units of raspberries to one unit of processed product.
Again, each fresh produce item has a different water content level so the ratio is also different. Rose could not speculate how many smoothies, for example, 100 grams of crystals will make. He said that clearly depends on individual taste. One smoothie maker might put 10 raspberries in his blender while another could put half that number or twice the amount. But he did say the crystals have an intense flavor and one can duplicate the effect of fresh or frozen berries with a small amount of his product.
The items currently being processed are the ones most often used in creating smoothies, soups and sauces such as several different berries, bananas, peaches and mangos on the fruit side with the vegetable ledger including beets, spinach, broccoli and carrots.
Currently JustOne Organics is concentrating on sales to processors before it tries to capture retail business. The company is also looking for locations and partners to help finance the various drying facilities. Once established in each area, JustOne Organics’ business model calls for contracting with local farmers to grow specific crops for the crystal production at an agreed-upon prices for their number two product.
“We want to contract with the grower before he plants so he knows he has a guaranteed home for his crops,” Rose said, adding that the “local” component of the facility and the growers will help keep the costs down and allow the economics to work.
Ultimately, Rose believes his vision, fully activated, will greatly increase the market for organic fruits and vegetables and bring more farmland into organic production all over the world.