Florida Worldwide Citrus’ evolution over the past 32 years from a citrus byproducts trading company to one that develops and markets organic fruit flavors around the world has not been without its challenges. But by being resourceful and nimble, company officials have found a path forward to continued growth.
Some of their challenges include greening disease, which poses an existential threat to the Florida citrus industry, changing consumer tastes and the sudden death from an aneurysm in 2014 of one of the principals of the company, Marc Soudijn at age 52.
Before his death, Marc Soudijn led the way in managing company operations, and in developing and producing new flavors, as well as expanding the company’s analytical work, said his brother, Arthur Soudijn, the company’s chief executive officer. Their father, Jan Soudijn, moved the family to Bradenton in 1982 to become international sales manager for Tropicana. Three years later, he started Florida Worldwide Citrus and was trading or selling juice, concentrates, oils and essences to South Korea, Europe, the Mideast and other markets.
Several years later, Jan Soudijn began developing flavor systems using fruit byproducts, carving out a niche to supplement the trading business. For 26 years, Florida Worldwide Citrus was based in a house on Manatee Avenue, with a separate warehouse for manufacturing.
“In 2012, my brother and I decided to buy this building, and that allowed us to have everything under one roof,” Arthur Soudijn said of the current 12,000-square-foot location at 2806 59th Ave. Drive E. in Bradenton. “We decided to focus less on trading and more on blending and standardization of oils.”
We are a small player in the multi-billion dollar flavor and fragrance business. We needed to grow and improve profitability and manage risk at the same time.
Arthur Soudijn, CEO, Florida Worldwide Citrus
Buying its raw materials from Florida, California and Texas, and as far away as Israel, South Africa and South America, the company was able to insulate itself from the shrinking citrus crop in Florida, while tailoring flavors to their clients’ specifications. Those products include oils pressed from oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes and tangerines, as well as essences from pineapples, passion fruits, mango, guavas, peaches, strawberries, apples and raspberries.
“We added larger blend tanks and analytical equipment, and we carried more inventory,” Soudijn said.
Through careful quality control, standardization of production and tailoring to the client’s specifications, Florida Worldwide Citrus was able to ensure more return business.
After Marc Soudijn’s death, Arthur Soudijn took stock of the company and drew up a new road map for the future, which included investing more money in the business and adding skilled people, including a chemist, a production manager and a logistician, and the purchase of a distillation unit.
“That allows us to concentrate the oils and make fractions and sell to the flavors and fragrance industry,” he said.
The payoff was almost immediate with sales growing more than 60 percent from 2014 to 2015.
“I put every ounce of energy into the business after my brother passed. It was a coping mechanism to deal with his loss,” he said.
In 2016, the company grew its distillation and blending business even more, added a second chemist and service support staff member, and finished 10 percent ahead of 2015. The company now has revenues of about $12 million year. Seventy-five percent of its business is in the United States, but the company also sells to clients in about 30 other countries.
“We are a small player in the multi-billion dollar flavor and fragrance business,” Soudijn said. “We needed to grow and improve profitability and manage risk at the same time.”
To get Florida Worldwide Citrus to the next level, the company added a partner, Keith Bearden, as president and chief operating officer, and started the permitting process with Manatee County to expand the plant by 5,000 square feet.
“Arthur has done a great job of repositioning the company as a value-added company,” Bearden said. “We have become a custom supplier. Customers can come to us and say, ‘We need two drums of this, and a little less of this, and a little more of that.’ ” “This company has some of the best sourcing agreements that I have seen, and some of them go back more than 30 years. We can call people in Egypt, Israel and Brazil and they’ll say, ‘Yes, we have product for you,’ ” he said.