EAST WHITELAND — A Portuguese juice-maker that had previously imported to the U.S. has launched U.S. manufacturing — and has chosen Chester County as its manufacturing hub.

Sofresco has partnered with Universal Pure’s East Whiteland facility to manufacture and high pressure process (HPP) its juices in the U.S. Universal Pure is the largest third-party provider of high pressure processing services for the food and beverage industry in the country.

Sofresco’s new manufacturing facility is located within Universal Pure’s Lee Boulevard facility.

Sofresco is the U.S. brand of Portuguese juice company Sonatural, which is sold in 24 countries and five continents. The brand is known for its innovative high pressure process juices and wellness shots in Europe and Asia.

The brand uses high pressure process to remove microorganisms while maintaining natural nutrition and flavor.

“We wanted to produce in the U.S. and to be near the HPP machines,” said Douglas Gilman, Sofresco co-owner. “We talked to Universal, got an agreement to produce inside and have the HPP treatment as fast as we can — in less than 24 hours.”

“The partnership between Sofresco and Universal Pure marks a significant milestone in bringing healthier, fresher and safer juice products to the U.S. market using HPP,” said Mark Duffy, CEO, Universal Pure. “HPP is fast becoming the food safety method of choice for its ability to inactivate harmful foodborne-bacteria and impurities, extend shelf life and maintain nutrition and flavor.”

The relationship between the two companies started a couple of years ago, according to Duffy. Once the decision was made to partner on Sofresco, he said things “went fast.”

“Within the last six months there has been a level of commitment, collaboration and coordination that has been phenomenal. And quite frankly — it speaks to the relationship,” he said. “Such a strong foundation of trust and respect between the two companies has allowed us to work so well together.”

Duffy added that Universal Pure had space within its facility to house production of the Sofresco product, as well as the storage of the fresh fruits and vegetables that are the basis of the product.

Gilman said the company chose high pressure process for its products because it is the only process that allows companies to produce homemade-type juices without using heat, which destroys bacteria but doesn’t keep the fresh fruit qualities intact.

“HPP is the only technology that maintains all the properties of fresh fruit, replicating a juice made from home,” Gilman said, adding that it inactivates the bacteria in a product, without heat, making it safe to drink, while also extending its shelf life.

Sofresco’s new facility is designed so that juice is pressed and high pressure processed within 24 hours, at 30 degrees, locking in taste, texture and nutrition. There are no added preservatives, sugar or water.

Not only will Sofresco juices be made in Chester County, but they will be made with Chester County produce. The company will source produce from local farmers and cooperatives from Pennsylvania and neighboring states.

Universal Pure and Sofresco hosted a grand opening of the Sofresco facility April 5. On hand were Chester County Commissioners Kathi Cozzone and Terence Farrell.

“What an opportunity for these companies — and the new jobs they are bringing with their expansion. It is exciting to have them here, growing their business in Chester County,” Cozzone said.

“It is great to welcome them to Chester County. This is a great place to have and grow a business. I look forward to coming back in a year to see how they have expanded,” Farrell added.

Also on hand for the grand opening was the Portuguese Ambassador to the U.S. — Domingos Fezas Vital.

“Portugal and the U.S. have a long lasting relationship,” the ambassador said, adding that Portugal was the third country in the world to recognize U.S. independence. “Since then our relationship has improved and is now very strong and diversified. And what we are watching here today is a very strong example of what I am talking about.”

Sofresco is starting its U.S. manufacturing with 20 employees, but Gilman said he expects that number to grow as the company grows in the U.S.

“We are increasing sales daily. We are happy with that and we’re trying to match the expectations of the consumers.” Gilman said.

For his part, Duffy said he expects Universal Pure to add jobs, as well.

“As Sofresco grows, so will we. HPP has very strong growth projection in food and beverage. We are the leader of third party providers in this space, so as the industry grows, as the leader we expect to have more than our fair share of growth, which we envision will translate into new opportunities,” he said.

Among the juices to be made in the East Whiteland facility are avocado juice with apple and pear; beet juice with apple, carrot and ginger; ginger and apple juice with basil; mango juice with apple and banana; and apple and lemon juice with mint. Sofresco’s wellness shots include Purifying Charcoal; Turmeric & Cayenne; and Ginger.

All of the juices are high pressure processed, under 70 calories, non-GMO, and come BPA-free in 12 ounce bottles.

According to Gilman, Sofresco juice drink will be sold not just in the U.S., but made in Chester County for export to Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and Honduras. Export to those countries is expected to begin in May.

In addition, Gilman added that the facility will create two additional products — separate from juices: raw soup and smoothie bowls. They are expected to hit markets later this summer.

“The future starts today,” Gilman said Friday. “We are just scratching the surface of an exciting opportunity that we all have together.”

In the U.S., Sofresco juices are currently available in some Publix and Lidl grocery stores and in May are scheduled to be sold in Walmart nationwide, with continued expansion in Publix and Lidl.

Email business story ideas to business editor/writer drovins@21st-centurymedia.com.

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