Growing up in one of Australia’s largest citrus producing regions, George Polymiadis had a dream — to make the best tasting fresh juice.

He took that dream, added his family’s oranges, his knowledge as a microbiologist and purchased some state-of-the-art equipment. 

About 31 years later his juice, Orchard Crush, has developed such a cult following that residents in his community of South Australia’s Riverland have been buying up bottles at the news he is retiring. 

Mr Polymiadis has been flat out fielding phone calls and supervising trucks to fill final orders since announcing he would cease trading this month.

“It’s been very busy,” he said.

“Everyone is in a little bit of a shock, and they want to stock up, which is obviously nice for us.”

George Polymiadis used a juice extractor from Italy to achieve the fresh-style product.(ABC Rural: Eliza Berlage)

Mr Polymiadis said he started Poly’s Fruit Juices after working at other juice production facilities in the region — some which had since closed down.

“Our family grew oranges, apples and grapes, and when I was working for Berri Vale we decided the fruit prices were so low that we’d try to look at value adding for our own benefit,” he said.

“We took the plunge, and it has been a nice profitable little business.”

Mr Polymiadis enlisted the help of a local designer to create the labels for his juices.(ABC Rural: Eliza Berlage)

The former microbiologist said he drew on his skill set to achieve his vision of creating a fresh juice that lasted up to a month.

“We were manufacturing the quality of orange juice that was almost pasteurised without pasteurising it,” Mr Polymiadis said.

“So we had a huge advantage over everyone in that we could keep it fresh and still maintain a very safe level of bacteria.

“I think we surprised a lot of people with the quality and the unique way that we were manufacturing it, not many other companies were doing that at a time.”

Mr Polymiadis is open to someone else taking over the business. (ABC Rural: Eliza Berlage)

End of an era

Mr Polymiadis said the difficult decision to shut up shop was driven by the loss of fruit supplied by his brother and a desire to focus his time elsewhere after his wife fell ill last year.

With a lack of succession interest from his sons he is open to selling the business, but doesn’t want to wait for a buyer.

“My boys were not interested, as they’ve got good jobs and they can see how hard I have worked over the years and don’t want to do that, which is fair enough ” he said.

“This was my dream, and I don’t want to impose that because if you’re not happy doing it, you won’t do it for very long.”

Mr Polymiadis says his employee Stefan Panagopoulos has found other work. (Supplied: George Polymiadis)

Despite a global shortage of orange juice concentrate providing an opportunity for Australian citrus growers and juice producers, Mr Polymiadis said his plans were already in motion.

“It would have been nice to keep going but we were in a unique situation where it suited us to close,” he said.

“But I used to always tell people ‘don’t pull your valencia [oranges] out because they will come around’.

“Now people are starting to realise there’s not enough in the ground, and we can’t manufacture enough orange juice for ourselves anyway, so we’re a net importer and it’s only going to get worse.”

Mr Polymiadis says the loss of his fruit supply made it hard to continue doing business.(Supplied: George Polymiadis)

Cult following

Mr Polymiadis said the best part of his venture had been producing a product that was beloved by the community.

“The highlight for us has been once people tried our juice we basically had them hooked as customers,” he said.

“We were pretty fortunate in that we were supplying all the hospitals, most of the hotels and local supermarkets.”

Grenfell Koch stocked Orchard Crush juice at his Riverland Foodland stores. ( ABC News: Timu King )

Grenfell Koch, who runs Foodland stores in Loxton and Renmark, said Orchard Crush juice would be missed.

“In between deliveries we would sell out most times,” he said.

“We could never really keep up with its popularity.”

“I know there are a lot of disappointed customers out there knowing it will no longer be available.”

The fruit was squeezed into juice, treated, packaged and labelled at the facility in Loxton.  (ABC Rural: Eliza Berlage)

In response to news that Poly’s Fruit Juices was closing, Loxton resident Barbie Swanson said it was “the best juice ever”.

Karina Tschurpig, who lives nearby at Alawoona, said she had been buying the juice for decades and often delivered it to family and friends in Adelaide. 

“How lucky were we to be able to purchase such beautiful products direct from the local factory,” she said.

“It’s going to be hard to replace it for sure.”

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