SANTA ROSA -- The Langer family of Southern California, who acquired a sparkling juice bottling plant in Healdsburg three years ago, is making a multimillion-dollar bet on Sonoma County with a more than four-fold larger bottling plant with three times as much production capacity to support its new Langers of Sonoma brand.
An affiliate of City of Industry-based Langer Juice Co. on Jan. 11 purchased a 54,500-square-foot former JSDU building at 2789 Northpoint Pkwy. in southwest Santa Rosa for $2.81 million. The total investment in the new facility, which is set to open in four months after city building permits and county health permits are secured, is around $3 million, according to Bruce Langer, vice president of marketing.
"We're trying to develop the name Langers of Sonoma, so the goal was to stay within the county," he said.
Langer Juice currently employs 15 in Healdsburg, and a number of them will be relocating to the new plant. The company is hiring to fill the first 15- to 20-person shift. Full production likely will require two more shifts, totaling 60 to 70 employees, according to Mr. Langer.
Langer Juice signed a co-packing deal with Healdsburg-based Sonoma Sparkler for a line of sparkling juices. In early 2009, Langer Juice acquired the lease for the 10,000-square-foot plant at 25 Healdsburg Ave. Los Angeles-based Reed's Inc. acquired the Sonoma Sparkler brand and relocated it to Southern California that June.
About a year ago, the Langer family launched the Langers of Sonoma brand. The company realized brand growth was limited by plant capacity.
"Once we were in Sonoma, we really liked what Sonoma meant to consumers and what Sonoma seems to be all about, which is a high-quality growing region," Mr. Langer said, noting the county name's connection to quality winegrapes and apples.
That fits with the company's goal of avoiding "empty calorie" beverages, he said.
"Everyone is interested in consuming fewer nonnutrient calories and consuming foods and beverages that have essential vitamins and minerals," Mr. Langer said. "A key part of that is to make value-added beverages taste good and be affordable."
Langers of Sonoma is made from 100 percent and nearly so single fruits and blends such as apple cider, pomegranate, apple-pomegranate, apple-peach and apple-blueberry. No sweeteners, colors or preservatives are added.
The majority of the fruit that goes into Langers of Sonoma sparkling juices, which retail for $1 for a 10-ounce bottle and $2.99 per 750-milliliter bottle, comes from California. Langer Farms in Bakersfield presses most of the fruit bottled at the family's two plants, one in City of Industry for juices and drinks without carbonation and the other in Healdsburg for bubbly beverages. About two-thirds of the 600-acre Bakersfield property is planted with orange and pomegranate orchards, with more planting planned. Langer Juice has purchase contracts for most of the supply.
"It's a way of expanding, vertically integrating, keeping an eye on quality, being local and speeding the fruit from farm to bottle," Mr. Langer said. The family recently started Langer Plastics to make bottles.
The Langer family started Langer Juice Co. (626-336-3100, www.langers.com) in 1960. Today, the company employs 300 and sells its juices and beverages in 22 countries. Distribution for Langers of Sonoma is expanding nationwide, although it currently isn't available in Northern California stores.
Company products include large shelf-ready and frozen juices, vitamin-enhanced water, bottled teas, applesauce, pouch drinks for Disney, L&A specialty juices, Fragile Planet Organic juices, low-tartness juices for young children, low-sugar juices, Hello Kitty juices and No Worries nonalcoholic cocktail mixers.