Fourth-generation citrus farmer ready to expand to H2O
story: theresa campbell /// photography: PROVIDED
America’s No. 1 selling organic orange juice brand is rooted in Lake County, and Uncle Matt’s Organic is enjoying sweet success on the shelves of 5,000 Publix, Kroger, Whole Foods, Safeway, and natural food stores in all 50 states.
“Our humble beginning is from here in Clermont,” says Matt McLean, owner and CEO of Uncle Matt’s Organic, which started in 1999. The company’s name pays tribute to Matt being uncle to 10 nieces and nephews.
He majored in business administration to get away from orange groves, but the University of Florida graduate found himself returning to what he loved.
Matt takes pride in farming the way his great-grandfather and grandfather grew citrus—before synthetic pesticides or fertilizers were invented in the late 1940s—and he believes organic farming is better for overall health, nutrition, and the environment.
“One thing about us is we don’t add any flavor packets to our orange juice,” Matt says. “A lot of the other big brands have to add flavor to mask whatever they want to mask, and we don’t add flavor packets. We believe our juice gives you an experience without heartburn or indigestion.
A lot of orange juice drinkers who have heartburn or acid reflux say they can drink orange juice. Again, with our product, we get comments like, ‘Oh, my gosh! I haven’t had orange juice in 10 years, but I can drink yours and I love it.’”
It’s not easy to farm organically, he says, so the company relies on natural fertilizers of feather meal, fish emulsion, seaweed, and compost in managing more than 1,100 acres of organic citrus.
The fourth-generation farmer is now eager to grow the company with citrus-infused, probiotic water recently created from 21 clinical trials. The water will be in stores this summer.
“We are in the beverage business, and we are just following trends in the marketplace,” Matt says. “The water category is growing rapidly.”
Uncle Matt’s bottled grapefruit water and orange water has 10 calories and 2 grams of sugar for an eight-ounce servings; the lemon water has zero calories and zero grams of sugar.
“We added some natural-dried peel because citrus peel has a lot of antioxidants, and we used patented probiotics proven for immune function and digestion,” Matt says.
“People are excited about it,” he says. “I think a lot of people want something that has more functionality than plain water.”