By Jamie Popp
Building on a
Langer Juice attributes
success to its independence
and customer connection.
in 1960 by Nathan Langer as a healthy juice company producing a
unique assortment of fresh-squeezed juices, Langer Juice Co.
Inc. today is a multi-dimensional, family-run company with a diversified
portfolio of beverage options. Most importantly, the company prides
itself on maintaining its independence and flexibility throughout
its evolution among big juice players. “My father started [the
making health food juices, which at that time only appeared in health food stores," recalls Bruce Langer, co-vice president of the company. "There was a time when it was fresh and not shelf-stable."
The juice, formerly known as L&A Juice, was available only in Southern California. The Langers brand the company sells today
didn’t evolve until 1988, when the company moved to its current
140,000-square-foot, City of Industry, Calif. location, nestled
among plants and warehouses outside of Los Angeles. Shortly after
moving into its new location and changing its name from L&A
to Langers, the company began to focus on developing its foothold
in the national market. Today, Langer Juice has its sights on
the Eastern United States.
Regardless of expanding its juice-making capabilities and varieties
over the years—and even becoming a starlet in recent Hollywood
movie promotions—Langer Juice Co. always keeps its roots
in Building on its solid foundation of healthy and other product
lines, the company has seen double-digit growth during the past
year, reporting $107 million in sales for 2002, up from $99 million
in 2001. In addition to its California facilities, Langer Juice
has grown to five distribution centers and four manufacturing
facilities across the country. Its sixth distribution center
to open next month.
According to Langer, the company has grown over the years for two
key reasons: customer contact and high-quality product introductions
in response to consumer demand.
I think the reason we’ve been successful is our mindset,
which takes several forms,” he says. “It’s how
we work with customers and put ourselves in their shoes. [We also]
bring in private [suppliers] that are officially promoted as No.
1, top-quality producers from raw materials, to blending and tasting.
It’s a family business and this is the juice our children
For these reasons, producing a quality product is of top concern
to the Langer Juice team. During every step of the process, from
raw materials to filling, there are people who test the product.
The plant is fully staffed 24 hours per day and tasters test every
batch of juice produced. A bottle of juice from each 45-minute
run is retained in the warehouse for about one year for quality
purposes, according to the company.
The breadth of the Langers product line ranges from juice for babies
to adults. And in the case of Langers 100 percent cranberry blends,
the line transcends age demographics. Its 100 percent line of products
from Cranberry to White Grape makes moms feel better about giving
juice to their children, and builds on the health-conscious message
that added vitamins and minerals are a necessary part of the American
diet, which appeals to older consumers. In addition to 100 percent
line, Langers is available in Plus varieties that offer consumers
vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, iron and calcium. Additionally,
herbs such as ginkgo biloba and ginseng are added to various items
in the 100 percent product line.
Our [product] enhancements are important to our consumers and promote
loyalty,” Langer says. “[For example] our Cranberry
100 has added vitamin A, C and E, and all of our shelf-stable
diet juices have calcium.
The Langers juice product line varies not only by enhancement but
also by style and size. In addition to its 100 percent and enhanced
juices, Langers comes in frozen concentrates, seasonal blends that
rotate throughout the year, and juice blends in 32-once, 16-once
and 10-once sizes. The company also uses 128-once bottles for a
variety of its products.
In addition to changing its name and relocating its operations,
juice industry shifts during the past three decades have affected
the company, requiring an agile approach to growth and development.
Langer Juice Co.’s years of experience in the marketplace
and understanding of the juice category have prepared the company
for what lies ahead.
For instance, the company at one time divided the juice category
into cranberry and apple juices. All other juices were lumped
into one side of the business based on consumer trends, according
Jerry Bekier, president of Premier Sales & Marketing, an
Anaheim Hill, Calif., company that manages sales and marketing
That’s all out the window now,” Bekier says. When the
company introduced its cranberry juice, consumers were beginning
to realize that many products on the shelf were mixtures of juice
and sugars. Once the consumer’s embraced 100 percent all-natural
juice without added sugars, smaller producers such as Langers
had room to grow, he says. With a little coaxing to expand its
offerings, the company took advantage of this market change and
rolled out its 100 percent cranberry juice with added vitamins
We were successful with our customers in apple juice and then one
of our buyers suggested that we make a cranberry version,” Langer
remembers. Langer Juice listened to its buyer and forged ahead,
proving to be weighty competition in the category.
According to Langer, without passionate, aggressive and intelligent
salespeople, the company would have faltered against major national
We found that people believed the category needed competition,” Langer
says. Good things come from healthy competition such as pricing
and promotions, he says. It also doesn’t hurt that the product’s
flavor was judged second to none.
A taste test performed by the American Culinary Institute, a
division of Quality Institute International, gave Langers a boost
as the “best
With a gold medal under its belt, the Western United States market
cornered, and expansion looming in the Northeast thanks to an independent
broker waiting in the wings, Langer Juice knew it had a big future
We just started selling in Boston and New England because it was
the place to go competitively, “Bekier says. “We didn’t
do focus groups. We just canvassed the trade, looked at what
was available to the consumer and determined how we could fill
Although Bekier attributes some of the company’s 100 percent
juice success to being in the right place at the right time,
he also considers consumer buy-in a driving force when competing
large companies in the market.
Consumer satisfaction is especially important when producers
are faced with decisions triggered by industry trends. A lack
in the juice category has caused many juice companies to not
only revise their product formulations to meet consumer needs,
to consider alternative packaging options to keep up – even
when faced with consumer animosity toward change.
Not too long ago, everything was glass,” Bekier says. “We
were the first juice company on the West Coast to use plastic packaging.” Although
plastic was easier-to-handle and a more efficient packaging option
for producers, consumers on the West Coast were not excited when
juices adopted plastic packaging in the late ‘80s, according
Today, Langer’s packages only its Pineapple Coconut juice
in 64-once glass bottles, which accounts for less than 1 percent
of the company’s portfolio of brands. But it wasn’t
only consumers’ eventual acceptance of plastic that was
important to the company. Retailer support played a key role
in whether or
not the product would get to the shelf.
Getting past [many years of brand loyalty to other brands by retailers]
and the consumer giving the retailers reasons to carry the brand
has been a huge part of Langer’s success,” Bekier
Langer’s family-run operation maintains the atmosphere
of a company run without outside management and bureaucracy,
and sales activities continue to win over the support of the
trade. Having been approached by numerous companies looking to
the business of juice making, the company enjoys its independence
and prides itself on creating partnerships with like-minded organizations
in the industry. For example, Langer Juice works within a network
of independent food brokers and distributors.
The people we see are decision-makers and it’s frustrating
for them to have to wait for an answer and not be able to negotiate
across the table [with other companies], “Langer says. “As
an independent company, we provide that negotiating experience
that lets [the companies we work with] move on with their business.”
Another advantage of working with independent companies is that
the owner lives within the marketplace and is able to keep an eye
on local business and understand what consumers want.
We like to work backward from the consumer,” Bekier says. “The
company philosophy is such that if we find a need on our production
side, we find the best people we can, define our goals, hire the ‘A’ team
and let them run with it. We’re not formal, we’re
very informal, and all ideas are considered.”
As a result of continual contact with the trade and consumers,
the company has introduced a variety of successful flavors such
as Raspberry Lemonade 100. Additionally, grocery stores that Langer
Juice works with have tipped it off to trends in grocery aisles
to move to single-serve packaging, an area in which the company
is considering ways to do more business, says Tom Bottiaux, national
sales manager for Langer Juice.
But it’s not only opportunities to enter burgeoning categories
that interest the company.
To us [the juice market is] new and exciting,” Bekier says.
That excitement has carried over to other categories. [In the
beginning] we consciously entered a market to give it a little
For example, the company introduced its frozen juice concentrates
at a time when frozen concentrates were on the decline due to limited
promotional activity and flavor innovation.
The company’s desire to encompass all age groups and tastes
within the family of products triggered its entry into the diet
juice business, which brought in more than $5 million for the
company during the past year. Its six varieties of juice with
added use sucralose and acesulfame potassium as sweeteners.
The consumer [with diabetes or other health concerns who requires
sugar-free alternatives] hasn’t had a choice,” Bekier
says. “The most enthusiastic e-mail we get is from people
who haven’t had a choice until now.”
But it’s not only juice that the company feels will reach
all age groups and tastes. The recent launch of Langer brand
purified drinking water, which is available in 0.5- and 1-liter
representation in the Southern California market in the beginning
of May, according to Bottiaux.
As the company expands into uncharted territory with water and
frozen concentrates, the question remains: will the new lines of
products undercut Langers juice business?
You’re going to have your No. 1 product and No. 80,” Bekier
says. “Pineapple Coconut juice has dedicated consumers, and
our apple juice business is growing, even though the percent of
contribution to the total grocery apple juice market is declining
typically in a market such as Southern California, Langers product
accounts for anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of the juice category.
It’s hard to find that [type of product representation]
in a single market.”
From adding vitamins to co-marketing and cross-promotions with
major Hollywood movie and consumer product companies, the Langer’s
consumer is getting more for the money – and “freebee” opportunities
such as a trip to Jamaica, a JanSport Backpack with Langers “Go
Anywhere” Sweepstakes, or a “Charlotte’s Web” movie
Part of the overall philosophy is adding value to our consumer,” says
Langer. “We have one promotion coming up in December in which
the winner and their friends will have a private movie screening
party. And we just completed a sweepstakes with the ‘Agent
Cody Banks’ movie.”
Langer’s proximity to Hollywood is a driving factor in the
company’s decision to partner with MGM, Sony Pictures and
Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount, Warner Brothers, Mira Max and
Universal Studios. Another outlet for promotion has been the
video gaming industry, which is popular among younger consumers,
in theory, will maintain their juice-drinking habits throughout
If you can find a consumer who is nine or 10 years old who likes
your product, then you’ve got a consumer for life,” Bekier
efficient manufacturing and distribution
systems accommodate demand
|The Langers brand is best known for its quality product
and flexibility. It’s this flexibility that keeps the company
and its arsenal of independent business suppliers and partners
coming up with new flavors and products on a regular basis. However,
what goes on behind the scenes in the Langer Juice plant and warehouse
is what makes the ideas pouring in from frontline salespeople,
wholesalers and distributors a reality.
We’re not going to sell the new juice just to one customer,” says
Bruce Langer, co-vice president of Langer Juice and son of founder
Nathan Langer. “If it’s successful, that customer will
be the anchor, but it will be part of the normal product line,
and other customers will also get the juice.”
Maintaining its company philosophy of supporting independent decision-making
and the people who do it, the process of introducing a new product
may be as simple as having a customer identify a need and supply
the demand. However, bottling the final juice style and flavor
is only a small part of the process it goes through before hitting
Currently, we operate five distribution centers across the country,” says
Langer. “By July, we’ll have six distribution centers.
There are four manufacturing locations, and logistically we’re
in a position to supply the country.”
Having the capability to deliver product across the United States
requires careful planning, technology, and production efficiency.
It also requires working capital.
Since 1999, the company has invested $4.5 million for plant additions
to improve operations such as adding space, a new case packer,
and most recently, a 16-head labeler. The electronic filler, installed
in 1999, fills 600 16-once bottles per minute, and protects PET
bottles against distortion by electronic control. David Langer,
also co-vice president of Langer Juice, estimates that the filler
has saved the company $300,000 in juice loss since it was introduced
into the production line, and increased plant efficiency by 25
In addition to monitoring the efficiency of operations within the
plant, the company is also aware of the environment and state policies
regarding business management. City of Industry, Calif.-based Langer
Juice is located in a part of the country that is fuel emission-
and energy-conscious, which has prompted the company to discover
unique solutions to becoming more fuel-efficient. Investing in
development of a co-generator meets the demands of state restrictions
on emissions as well as creates an independent means for the company
to sustain its operations.
With co-generation, we will not only be able to generate our electrical
needs, but also reduce our thermal usage without increasing our
emissions, “Bruce Langer says. “The cogeneration system
will produce electricity, steam and hot water with fuel that is
already being used.”
Depending on the type of fruit, the concentrates and fruits that are used in the plant come from various parts of the country. This also applies to the suppliers that contribute their technology and equipment to the process of getting Langers juice from the concentrate stage to the bottle and finally onto a delivery truck.
ìApples are basically from our suppliers in California and Washington,î David Langer says. ìThe concentrates are made to our specifications. Guava, papaya and other tropical fruits come from abroad.î
ìWeíre very strict with what we buy. If the concentrates arenít perfect, we reject them, ìBruce Langer says. ìThe key to making good juice is to start with good fruit and not abuse the juice.î
ìWe start with receiving raw materials and everything is checked to make sure it meets specifications and weíre happy with flavor, David Langer says. ìThen the fruit concentrates are mixed in 3,000 gallon blending tanks.î The tanks are strategically located in a pit within the plant for safety reasons, according to the two Langers.
Langer Juice goes through a variety of tests after the mixing process. Once the mix is approved, the juice is filtered and pasteurized through either a plate and frame or tubular heat exchanger. Then the bottles go into one of three hot-filling machines, where they are filled and capped before entering a cooling tunnel. The cooling tunnel sprays water to cool the 185 F juice to 100 F. The bottled juice then goes through a fill height inspection machine to make sure the volume of juice in every bottle is accurate. Finally, the product is labeled, boxed and racked for inventory.
ìThe added accumulation table in the filling process, which is about nine minutes at 300 bottles per minute, has allowed us to go from 200 bottles to 300 bottles per minute in that time period,î David says. ìChanging to electronic fillers has had the most impact on our production. The [filler] machines also minimize the distortion of the bottles [because of the low pressure used against the bottles].î
Everyday, Langer Juice has 5,000 pallet positions of finished product, and produces 75,000 cases per day, which are wrapped and stored in its gravity-flow warehouse system. When compared with 50,000 cases of finished product produced three years ago, itís clear that the latest advances in technology and equipment in the company have greatly affected productivity levels.
Like the production process at Langer Juice, the order procedure is a balance of speed and efficiency. Once an order is received electronically through the companyís EDI system, which is linked to salespeople and retailers, it is combined in a report to help manage production, inventory and distribution. Tracking the order begins with the initial request and continues until the product ships.
ìAfter we receive an order for items that are to be produced, we create a production report,î David says. ìBar code labels go on each product pallet. Then product is scanned into inventory. When the product goes out, itís scanned again and details, such as where the product is going and which truck picked it up, are recorded.î
Although the company sold its plant in Mexico in 2002 the Langers brand is available in both Mexico and Asia, which is a relatively new venture, according to Tom Bottiaux. ìEach country has local laws that prove challenging to get into those markets,î he says. But, donít think the challenges of distribution will keep the company at bay. Langer Juice is always looking for new distribution opportunities and markets to serve with its juice, and water, product lines.
fuels Langer’s operations
juice is on the cutting edge of technology not only inside
its plant and warehouse, but outside as well. A short distance
from the plant delivery door, against the outside of the
building is the company’s solution to the energy crisis
on the West Coast: a co-generator.
According to Garrett Smith, the mastermind behind the custom-designed
project and president of Cogentech, Portland, Ore., “it’s
a natural gas system that provides electric, steam and hot
water, all from the same
Although co-generators exist in other countries and throughout the United
States, the Southwestern states, which are prime candidates for energy
solutions considering recent power shortages, are lagging behind due to
the economic implications associated with co-generation.
“ Hydroelectric power has previously provided all power [to the West],” Smith
says. “While Langer’s co-generator is unique to this area [co-generators
are] very common in Northern Europe because countries such as Denmark and Norway
focus on energy efficiency.”
Recommended for bottling and pasteurization facilities due to the technology
that combines heat and power, co-generation goes beyond energy efficiency.
“ The big benefit of combining power sources is that it saves money and
reduces fuel usage, which in turn reduces pollution,” Smith says. “[The
cost savings are] dependent on utility prices. In California, for example, a
co-generator provides a 70 percent savings over traditional utility rates.”
Although Cogentech is currently working on several co-generator projects,
the Langer Juice model is the most efficient energy system in the Southwestern
United States, according to Smith.
“ The air pollution system is the cleanest ever built to meet South Coast
air quality requirements,” he says.