Founded in 1868, Watsonville, California-based Martinelli's is the most iconic and recognizable brand of apple cider in the country — and their bottles of sparkling cider are classic and nostalgic fixtures all year round, but especially during the holiday season. Over 80 years later and over 200 miles south, McConnell’s was established in Santa Barbara in 1949.
For the first time in 200 years of combined California heritage, we joined forces with our friends up the coast to create Apple Cider & Cranberry Jam, just in time for Thanksgiving. We spoke to Gun Ruder, president and CEO of S. Martinelli’s & Co. about their longstanding California history and how we were able to capture the essence of their Sparkling Apple Cider in our new flavor.
Can you tell us a bit about Martinelli's history of making apple juice and sparkling ciders in California?
Martinelli’s has been producing apple juice and sparkling cider out of Watsonville, CA for 154 years – we’ve never moved, but we’ve expanded our operations a bit! The bedrock or who we are is U.S. grown fresh apples and 100% juice products. Our connection to our growers continues to be critical to ensuring the highest quality apples to make the highest quality juices.
The Company’s first product was actually hard cider. Prohibition forced Martinelli’s to quickly shift gears and develop shelf-stable, nonalcoholic apple juice products. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention and that era saw the introduction of our most popular product, Sparkling Cider. Over the years we’ve added a variety of juices and sparkling ciders while also introducing our iconic apple-shaped bottles.
Several years ago, we opened a Company Store and Tasting Room in Watsonville. Our neighbors and friends from near and far are invited to stop by and sample all our products, learn all about Martinelli’s and, of course, buy their favorite Martinelli’s juice!
Like McConnell's, Martinelli's is family-owned and operated. Why is that ownership so important to Martinelli's?
The values of our founder, Stephano Martinelli, and the generations of Martinelli’s that have followed continue to guide the Company today. We remain committed to serving our community, our farmers, and our internal team with compassion as we focus on producing the highest quality juices and ciders in the world.
There is also an incredible amount of pride and a sense of responsibility in being one of the very few companies in the country that is more than 150 years old and still family-owned and operated.
What's your favorite Martinelli's product?
I’m a traditional guy so the Sparkling Cider is always my go-to.
What makes this collaboration so special?
There are so many reasons why this collaboration is special. Both companies are California-based, family-owned and committed to producing the highest quality product possible. However, combining our holiday classic with McConnell’s high quality ice cream to create Apple Cider & Cranberry Jam ice cream, the ultimate holiday dessert, in time for Thanksgiving is incredibly special.
You've tasted the flavor - what are your thoughts?
It’s delicious. From the beginning, we knew that if we were going to come out with a Martinelli’s ice cream, it had to taste like apple. We weren’t sure how we were going to make it happen, but we knew that was key to this flavor. McConnell’s hit this out of the park capturing the crisp, sweet and effervescent qualities of Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider and combining it with McConnell’s house-made tart cranberry jam to make a perfectly balanced scoop for the holiday season.
Our flavor is essentially Thanksgiving in a pint or scoop. What are your favorite Thanksgiving treats?
I can’t wait to add a scoop of Apple Cider & Cranberry Jam to my favorite Thanksgiving Day dessert, fresh apple pie.