Watsonville's H.A. Rider & Sons Bottles Organic Santa Cruz Drinks

There's a good chance that tea, Acai, fruit juice or the energy drink you consume was bottled in Santa Cruz County.

Watsonville's H.A. Rider & Sons is the place local entrepreneurs go to have their drink ideas put in bottles to sell regionally, with the hope they will be the next Vitamin Water or Snapple.

The so-called "New Age Beverage" category is one of the fastest-growing type of drinks, propelled by the likes of Propel. Vitamin Water sold for $4 billion to Coca-Cola, enabling its Queens, NY founder Mike Repole to race two horses this year in the Kentucky Derby, Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty.

Rider's president Tom Rider, says his company, which employs 53-73 people depending on the number of clients it has, flies under the radar, but is the quiet assemblyline behind drinks that go to most of the markets in Santa Cruz.

It used to be the local outpost for Vitamin Water and has 43 brands it bottles and stores right now on Freedom Boulevard. The company started making its own juices in 1948, but later shifted to making drinks for others because it couldn't keep up with the scope of the Pepsis and Coca-Colas of the world.

Often, locals start with Rider, sell their companies to the bigger guys and then return to Rider with a fresh idea, says Tom.

Some current clients include Mint, Purity, Trinity Springs, Bookoo and , the astrologically-based juice drink, which is what got me to tour the plant. The company bottles juices for bars, teas, herbal drinks and spring water.

If you ever had doubts about the freshness and purity of your drinks, you will forget them after seeing this plant.

Manager Alicia Heim, who has run the bottler's factory for more than three decades, notes that even if a plastic bottle falls on the floor, it is sent to the recycling bin. An employee would be fired if they tried to use the bottle.


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