From seed to sparkling success
S. Martinelli & Company has made apple juice and sparkling cider since the 1860s — and grown over the past century with support from Wells Fargo.
In 1859, Stephen G. Martinelli, the youngest of nine children, moved from Switzerland to California’s fertile Central Coast, where his brother Louis had started farming apples a few years earlier. That apple farming has blossomed into S. Martinelli & Company, a Wells Fargo customer best known for Martinelli’s Gold Medal® apple juice and nonalcoholic sparkling ciders.
Today, Stephen’s great-grandson John is president of the company, and says, “In those days, there was no way to preserve apple juice, so you had to consume off the press or ferment it. My great-grandfather started to experiment with making hard cider and in the process developed a sparkling cider that was more effervescent than traditional hard cider.”
Over the years the business evolved, and the development of cold storage and pasteurization also changed the business. Stephen adopted methods from canning to develop a pasteurization process for apple juice. This new process didn’t involve fermenting the juice and created a nonalcoholic product — a fortuitous discovery a few years before Prohibition started in 1920.
“If it wasn’t for his work, we wouldn’t have been able to transition to a nonalcoholic champagne-style cider, which is now our No. 1 product,” John says.
He says families often make nonalcoholic sparkling cider a part of celebrations and then pass that tradition down from generation to generation.
Focus on the future
Wells Fargo has worked with S. Martinelli & Company for more than 100 years — from when it was a small, regional producer to today’s national brand.
John says, “Wells Fargo has helped fund every one of our major projects, including property purchases, buildings, bottling equipment, and apple presses, as well as working capital needs.”
S. Martinelli & Company is focused on developing the sparkling cider and sparkling cider blends business, as well as on new geographic market opportunities and expanding to wholesale clubs and big mass merchandisers, John says.
As the company looks to expand its operations, Wells Fargo has been a consistent consultant. Wells Fargo’s Ryan Pacheco says, “We’ve been talking with Martinelli’s about agriculture lending and lines of credit for crops, which can be essential as the company integrates its growing operations to secure its apple supply.”
CFO Gun Ruder says when he was hired, he looked skeptically at the long-term relationship the company had with Wells Fargo. “I can say with 100 percent confidence that Wells Fargo has been flexible, responsive, and works to understand our business,” he says.
Gun says that support also has been valuable as the company continues to grow its overseas business. With export markets in Mexico, South Korea, Canada, Japan, and elsewhere, “The Wells Fargo team has served us really well — even internationally — as we look to manage potential currency risks,” he says.
Note: A version of this story also appeared in the 2015 Wells Fargo Annual Report (PDF).