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Calypso beverages are sold in 15 different states, including Wisconsin.

King Juice continues to reign despite economy


For 40 years, Milwaukee-based King Juice flourished as a medium-sized packager of non-carbonated drinks. The family-owned business also features its own brand of juice, Calypso, which puts the company in a unique niche.

"Most brand owners are marketers, not packagers," says Tim Kezman, King Juice's president since 1983. "We really fly under the radar."

The company never advertises, relying on word-of-mouth and supplier referrals to increase their business. The approach seems to work. For the past four years, the company experienced double-digit growth and Kezman says a similar increase is projected for 2009.

"Traditionally, our business has never been impacted by economic fluctuations," says Kezman. "Even during the Carter years, when interest rates were high, we never saw huge dips. We've been really fortunate over the years."

King Juice beverages are Government Inspected, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) qualified and some are Organic Certified.

Kezman says King Juice's success stems from a variety of reasons. For starters, King Juice fills a much-needed niche as a medium-sized packager. King Juice only requires a 500-case minimum per flavor, whereas a large-scale packager requires around 10,000 cases per flavor. This allows successful, medium-sized beverage makers to create smaller batches and stay in business.

In 1999, King Juice introduced Calypso lemonades, which are extremely successful for the company. Calypso comes in 11 different flavors of lemonade as well as Calypso classics like orange, apple and grape juice.

"Our thought process with Calypso was that everyone was doing a flavored tea, vitamin water or an energy drink, and we introduced a very traditional beverage that doesn't require education to enjoy," says Kezman. "It's a unique spin."

Kezman says King Juice will introduce new Calypso flavors in 2010, but for the next year, they are going to focus on what's already in progress.

Calypso beverages are available in 15 states from coast to coast and in Canada, where Calypso is sold with a French label. Kezman says their largest distributor is in Anchorage, Ala.

"Believe it or not, we sell a lot of Milwaukee-made lemonade in Alaska," he says. "About a bottle per person per year."

Kezman says not trying to be all things to all people has helped the company stay focused and successful. He says large companies have shown interested in King Juice over the years, but he and his two silent investors are committed to staying independent, medium-sized and in Milwaukee.

"The big guys – the Cokes and Pepsis of the world -- don't let you accrue real profit," he says.

King Juice has 73,000 square feet of space on six acres of land and 28 employees. The company experiences very little turnover.

"Our most recent hire was two years ago," says Kezman. "I don't lose guys."


Talkbacks

1153 | Dec. 15, 2008 at 1:27 p.m. (report)

We decided after having a calypso at lunch one day last spring that wouldn't they be great after work with vodka? It became our favorite summer drink. They went down really smooth! My favorite was the kiwi lemonade.

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megster37 | Dec. 15, 2008 at 7:18 a.m. (report)

I think I knew at one time, but completely forgot these were made in Milwaukee. I'll have to buy some more often!

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Daus | Dec. 14, 2008 at 3:40 p.m. (report)

I love this stuff. Anyone know where I can buy it by the case?

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