The Apple Press takes 'ugly' fruit and makes juice instead (Photos: Supplied)

For the love of ugly fruit, a Hawke’s Bay juice company has a solution

Hawke’s Bay juice makers The Apple Press say they don’t care about looks, just “good taste and low-waste”. Jihee Junn talks to co-founder Ross Beaton about how his innovative juice company came about. 

‘You eat with your eyes first’ is how the old adage goes, with science proving over the years that visual stimuli really does alter our perception of taste, smell and flavour in food. The principle applies even more when it comes to fresh produce, where we choose plump tomatoes, shapely green pears and glossy maroon apples over dull and cosmetically blemished ones.

Aesthetics, however, don’t always equate to freshness and taste. Despite being just as nutritious as its unblemished counterparts, ‘ugly’ produce (fruit and veg that looks weird, wonky or oddly shaped) has long gone to waste. But in recent years, supermarkets and farmers have attempted to mitigate this waste through initiatives that embrace ‘ugly’ produce, such as Countdown’s move last year to sell oddly shaped fruit at discounted prices.

Hawkes Bay apple farmer Ross Beaton had an even better idea. Instead of trying to sell ‘ugly’ produce as is, why not repurpose it to make a whole new product? In Beaton’s case, that product was apple juice, made from the 13,000 tonnes of ‘ugly fruit’ left behind in Hawke’s Bay orchards.

The Apple Press founders Sally Gallagher and Ross Beaton (Photo: Supplied)

Having started out planting apple trees in Hawke’s Bay back in 1982, Beaton went on to help build Apollo Apples into a successful business exporting to 45 countries. But he remained bothered by the amount of fruit that went to waste from the business and became determined to do something meaningful with these ‘rejected’ apples. He started The Apple Press five years ago, getting in touch with the Food Innovation Network for help and, subsequently, food innovation specialist Sally Gallagher.

“More commonly, apples were crushed down and made into a concentrate, which would cause the fruit to lose a lot of its nutritional value and flavour,” says Beaton. “The Apple Press is different. We cold press the apple once to capture all the flavour and aromas of that apple. There’s no added sugar, no preservatives. Just 100% raw juice.”

In order to further fulfil their vision of becoming an all-natural, varietal-led apple juice maker exporting in significant quantities, Beaton and Gallagher built their own specially designed, $30 million factory in Whakatu, Hastings. It officially opened earlier this month. The Apple Press production facility currently employs 27 people in the Hawke’s Bay region and produces thousands of bottles of apple juice per hour. All products are bottled in 100% recyclable packaging.

From tart (Jazz) to sweeter (Braeburn) varieties. (Photo: Supplied)

Like wine, different types of apples produce different types of apple juice, each with their own distinct taste profiles, Beaton says. “From sweet to tart, our juice covers that whole spectrum of tastes by using Braeburn, Royal Gala and Jazz apples. We also have blends where we mix the apple juice with orange, pear or feijoa juice… but we still keep the apple at the forefront.”

“[New Zealand has] the best apples in the world,” says Beaton. “So why not make the world’s best apple juice? It’s something we’re proud of. Something we stand by.”


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