Episode 315

Matt McLean, Chief Uncle at Uncle Matt's Organic

Published on: 6th May, 2024

🎙️🌍 Welcome back to "Your World of Creativity" podcast! 🌟

On this show, we've journeyed through various creative experiences, from entertainment to furniture, and today, we're diving into the world of organic juices with Uncle Matt's Organic.

🍊 Founder and Chief Uncle, Matt McLean, joins us to share the remarkable story behind Uncle Matt's Organic and its journey from farm to bottle to local stores.

Here are 5 highlights from our conversation:

- **Roots to Fruits:** Matt shares how Uncle Matt's Organic started from humble beginnings on just three acres in his father's backyard, following devastating freezes that wiped out their citrus groves.

- **Navigating Challenges:** Facing obstacles ranging from weather calamities to citrus greening disease, Matt discusses the resilience needed in the agricultural industry and how organic farming remains central to their mission.

- **Creative Innovations:** From developing a full line of organic beverages beyond orange juice to infusing functional ingredients like elderberry for immune-boosting properties, Uncle Matt's Organic stays ahead of emerging trends with creativity at its core.

- **Distribution Dynamics:** Matt delves into the intricacies of building distribution channels, from local health food stores to larger supermarket chains, and the logistical challenges of maintaining freshness in perishable products.

- **Commitment to Mission:** Uncle Matt's Organic is not just a brand; it's a mission-driven endeavor committed to organic farming practices and consumer health, fueled by a dedicated team aligned with their vision.

🌱 Pull-out Quote from Matt McLean: "In America, no profit goes up unchallenged. Similarly, no good idea goes unchallenged. Business is the ultimate game of creativity."

Join the conversation and connect with Uncle Matt's Organic:

Website: unclematts.com

Social Media: @unclematts (Instagram, TikTok)

LinkedIn: Matt McLean

Keep unlocking your world of creativity with us as we explore inspiring stories and innovative ideas from around the globe. Until next time, I'm Mark Stinson, signing off from Clermont, Florida. Stay creative, stay inspired! 🚀 #YourWorldOfCreativity #OrganicInnovation #CreativeJourneys


 Welcome back friends to our podcast, your world of creativity. We've been traveling the globe, gaining creative experiences from brands of all kind and entertainment, sound systems, furniture, hospitality, even in the pencil market. Today we're going to be talking about a brand of organic juices.

We're going to go from the farm to the bottle to your local store with Uncle Matt's organic brand. And I have Uncle Matt himself to talk to us, Matt McLean. Matt, how are you? I'm great.

I'm doing great, Mark. Thanks for having me on today. Appreciate it.

You bet. I just love the title right off the bat.

You're not only the founder, but the chief uncle at Uncle Matt's Organic. That's a lot of weight.

Yeah, that's typically the question I get every time. Is it really an uncle? And so I started this when I was 27, now I'm 52, but the best part was when I was doing demos, when I was 27 years old, people would go, who is uncle Matt?

And I'd say that's me. And some people were just in dispute. They're like, no way you're uncle Matt. I'm like I'm the youngest of three. I have two nieces and nephews at the time. So it was fun.

It's a title to live up to for sure, but you've been growing this uncle matt's brand Literally from the ground up as you said since you were 27 Starting with I read three acres in your dad's backyard.

Was it really just three acres? Oh my goodness

r Orlando. And the freezes of:

arted Uncle Matt's in June of:

So it was quite the story of perseverance for my dad and granddad. They both became consultants. And moved on to different parts within the industry and within the state After being grove owners to that amount he'll tell you we in one cold night he went from having nothing but assets to nothing but liabilities and the the perseverance it takes for a person to overcome that so we when I started it was You know interesting that we instead of the 600 acres we started with the small amount, but then we grew from there


And entrepreneurs face all sorts of obstacles and challenges, but when you're dealing with Mother Nature, that adds a whole nother layer, doesn't it?

It sure does you do not have control over mother nature that is for sure and My granddad said it best there were never two seasons that are the same.

So if you love change get into agriculture

Love that. It certainly makes you earn the I thought it was fun on your website There's a t shirt that says respect your elderberries which I was going to be ordering right off the bat, but it brings a whole nother level of respect for the elderberries Doesn't it?

So we do some fun things with orange juice, and one of them is we added elderberry juice to it. And we called it Ultimate Immune. We boosted it with C Zinc, and with D. But yeah, that elderberry is a delicious, it's a tart berry, but it blends well with orange juice. And so we had a little fun being creative, right?

So that was a creative tagline, so then came up with that, and it was, it's fun on a t shirt. It gets a lot of Fun remarks as you walk around with respect your elderberries. I can

only imagine matt, let's get into some of the beverage business and trends and functional drinks and so forth Uncle matt's has that full line of organic beverages.

It's great to see, I thought hey It's a great orange juice brand because that's how most people might know it But you've got a real a full line there and is that capitalizing? What are some of the emerging trends I guess and how are you staying abreast of them?

rted with one item in June of:

It was pulp free orange juice. Pretty simple, and it was organic. That's our real claim to fame is organic, farmed without harmful pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, those things. And from there, we have developed a full line beyond orange juice. And while orange juice is is a kind of the category is flat to declining, but organic continues to grow.

And so we've been able to be a nice little shining light. In that category of growth for the OJ category. But then when you add on lemonades punches, those are some things that we've done in addition to just orange juice, and then we've put functional ingredients in orange juice. So like I said, the ultimate immune that added elderberry, we also have one that's ultimate defense where we blended it with pineapple and ginger, and then threw in turmeric and some probiotics that are healthy for the gut.

So just going a little beyond what my parents and grandparents knew for breakfast every morning, which was just, orange juice. We like to have a little bit more fun. We like to get the next generation involved and you have to keep it interesting for them.

For sure. And for sure, a great product, a great tasting product, but you're really describing some of these consumer packaged goods, marketing and distribution things that were really key to your growth.

And there's so many aspiring entrepreneurs in the food space and the, juice, and you mentioned functional beverages. Everybody says, boy, if I could just have a X percent, if I could just have a foot, Oh, facing the store. I would be great. What were some of the approaches you had to take to really build this distribution?

Oh, boy. When we first started we went local. To a great little chain of health food stores called Chamberlain's here in Orlando In central florida, and they knew the customer base really well because we were organic and And orange juice being healthy so it was a no brainer for them But them alone is not enough to launch a real brand and a company And make some of the minimums that I had when I started out With in production with a co packer and when you do Refrigerated and perishable It's a really tough market and it's a tough game to play because when you produce It's got a limited amount of time and you got to sell it and we had minimum size runs We had about 600 cases that we had to basically, sell within a couple weeks.

And so that little 13 store chain Needed to be much bigger while they were committed to us and they loved us and we got our you know one item full three oranges there and they Gave me about three or four facings of it. We need a more. So we went to Gooding supermarket, which was now a conventional local chain.

e feet compared to the little:

And we had a couple other produce distributors that helped when we got into Chamberlain's, a little health food store, it brought us in through that distributor. And that distributor had probably another oh couple hundred stores at least in there And so when we did that plus the conventional chain, I had enough just barely To get by and boy you want to talk about some pressure when you run those 600 cases like whoo clock's ticking

That's right.

I wanted to ask about that because shelf life obviously is important, especially in organics How do you manage that? From the tree to the bottle to the, consumers refrigerator and keep it all as fresh as you want it to be.

So it's a pretty intense, just in time model, right?

So you have you have to be really good with logistics and distribution. You have to be good with production. We literally get invoices in, or we get fios in from customers and. Within two weeks, we're shipping their order. So it's fast and furious. In the beginning, it was a little less organized because I was the one man band.

So I had, I wore all kinds of hats back then. I would take the order. I would line up the truck, I would line up the production schedule, and then I would actually do the invoicing. So that was everything. Today I've, we're in a lot better position. I have a great team of experts back there that are helping keeping it flowing.

But you have to be really good at all phases and you have to be consistently great. So when that customer opens the bottle, every time it's consistently great and it tastes, good. So they make sure that they buy it again and you hope that if you're doing your job well, then they refer it to a friend.

Yes. Not many times on this podcast because we're all creative, sometimes too fluffy in the creativity. I love when I hear words like POs and logistics, like this is the,

this is

where the

rubber meets the road. We're probably getting way into the minutiae. I'll get back at the high level stuff.

Oh no. But you also mentioned team and I can only imagine, obviously you want to attract people with the right skills, but I'm thinking about aligning the team with your brand, with your mission. When you're literally the uncle for these people they've got to be believers, right?

Absolutely. We're a mission driven company. Right out of the gate, being organic, that's all we do. We don't compromise on organic farming. We believe it's a better way to farm. We believe it's better products that you put in your body and long term, it'll be better for everybody.

So it starts there first for us. And so when we get the team on board, we get team members in, they, hopefully they are falling in love with our mission and when they come to work, you're that little engine that could, and you're part of this team that nobody says that can, it can be done.

And you're this little tiny challenger brand. And by gosh, we're going up against every day, the David versus Goliath story. And so that's just that it's juiced me, no pun intended for 25 years every day, because I love what I do, we're, we are that little engine that could we overcome so much.

And finally the right team members. that will believe in you and want to get on that train with you. That's really important. We haven't got it right every time, but we got it right most of the time with hiring the right people. And I can tell you that the very first person I really got it right with was my wife because she is the creative mind behind Uncle Matt.

She does all of our design work. It comes out of her mind. She does everything from packaging. Does writing all kinds of creativity. She's musically inclined, all of that. I am not. So Wonderful to

have that kind of partner.

When you find that partner, that's the best thing you can do in life.

And we just had our 18 year anniversary recently, and so it's just, it's awesome to know I was blessed with that. In my life.


so good

And we were talking about mother nature and resilience and perseverance for sure And as I was reading more about your business this concept of citrus greening disease Came up and wow, that's got to be one of the it's one thing to say we had a bad freeze But this kind of disease, how is that affecting your business and your operation?


So it has completely changed our business model from when I first began. We have, while we have always chased having enough supply and while you had to go out in organic and convert growers to organic, we had to educate them about farming practices and we spent a lifetime doing that at Uncle Matt's Organic.

. By:

Hence the term greening disease. The citrus is still green, has a little bit of lemon and lemon notes in it. But it It was it was devastating then it's still devastating today. It continues to just cut our industry every year by supply and by groves and growers and just reduces the total amount of volume.

now when we started up until:

that short period from about,:

Yes and I guess potential. Oh, absolutely, but you remain committed to organic farming

We do there's no going back for me there's not another method and another way to farm. And we truly believe it'll be better long term. And so we've just moved our grower base to those other regions.

We actively work with them to combat citrus greening. Florida was ground zero because of our subtropical climate. The moisture level, the humidity level all of it is just conducive to the little vector, which is like a mosquito. The Asian psyllid. It spreads the disease. Thrives here.

Also the bacteria actually thrives in growing here. It's a difficult environment to overcome greening one, but when we do, it's one of the best environments, if not the best environment to grow high quality organic citrus. So we hope one day we can circle back here. That's why we've not moved.

To Texas or any of those other locations. We keep our headquarters here in Florida.

I like this idea of R& D and experimentation, working to figure out. And what about the bigger picture going beyond fruit? The organic movement, I think about a friend here in Idaho who does, regenerative agriculture advocacy for grains and other things.

Is this movement here to stay?

I think so. It's very interesting. Now the buzzword is regenerative agriculture, right? And most of those methods are basically organic farm. So it's a little bit more of a buzzword for organic farming, except there is organic regenerative, regenerative organic, which goes a little bit more in detail than just the USDA standards for organic farming where you'd really need to use cover crops.

To help with your nitrogen and put compost and some of those things back on the soil. A good organic farmer already did that but now you can go a step further and get it certified for regenerative organic. But I believe it is here to stay because it's sustainable, those methods. And whether you go all the way and be organic, Or you're just regenerative and use covered crops and composting and some of those things.

I think you'll tell a difference. You'll tell a difference in the soil profile. You'll tell a difference in the health of your plants long term. We hope you go all the way and convert to organic so you don't have to use any of the harmful herbicides. Which basically they kill all the friendly bacteria or kill a lot of the friendly bacteria in the soil.

Using antibiotics. Thanks. When you get sick, you use antibiotics and it wipes out all your healthy gut bacteria that's your natural defense mechanisms. You have to build it all back up. A lot of the herbicides and pesticides do the same to our healthy soil, so organic farming we don't allow it, so you always are trying to build, lots of populations of mycorrhizae beneficial fungus and other things in the soil that works in synergy and harmony with a plant.

So it has better uptake of nutrients into that. So you get, all the little minors of selenium and boron and zinc and molybdenum and things like that. In that fruit or that plant that when your body eats it, it turns on all kinds of pathways and stimulates things in your body. It may not have known before because it was depleted.

From eating the regular conventional diet.

That's right and this is all mission based for you and your team But ultimately it comes back to the consumer, And to the extent they believe in sustainability and the good health the attributes that you're talking about And do you see that as strong demand,

I don't think it ever goes away that people are concerned about their health.

I think, the unfortunate part of the pandemic there is at least a good thing that came out of it, which people are more focused on their health. And, hey, why did I, did we get sick? How could we, be more prepared for the next wave of whatever pandemic or illness that comes across?

And it starts with, healthy food and what you put in your body. How do we not have to rely on, Operation Warp Speed and a vaccine to save lives? How about saving your own self and starting with a good, healthy diet, exercise and eating and in our opinion, an organic sustainable food?

Let's circle back to the team and the fun and the creativity. I love that you brought your wife and partner into the creative fold and infuse that kind of, and you talked about hiring the right kind of people. You're going to hang up with me and you're going to get back to work. How do you keep the creative fires burning?

With yourself and your team.

What's awesome is in America, there is in capitalism, no profit goes up unchallenged, right? Same with no good idea goes unchallenged. So as soon as you have something with your aha moment of, I think this is going to be awesome. Eventually other people realize it's awesome too.

And so you got to continue to create, you got to continue to recreate, you got to be innovative. Yeah. And you gotta be creative on how you market stuff, on how you develop your product and produce it. So for me, business is just, it's the ultimate game of creativity. And you're just always trying to come up with the next creative idea, whether it's a slogan, whether it's a changing your your look on your packaging, changing your marketing, all of that is, is creative.

And it comes from, the desire to win in the marketplace, the desire to have the best taste in product, to have customers that really love your product and tell other people about it. Those are all wonderful things that come out of, just the desire to have a great creative company

It's a good burn.

I love that

Correct. Yeah.

Matt tell us where we can connect with you your company and learn more about your products and your work

Yeah, it's we're very social unclematts. com is the easiest place to find us. You also can find us on instagram on tiktok I'm on linkedin. You can follow me matt mclean on linkedin.

I post You Real world stuff. It isn't all just about, our products, but I talk about, things we're doing out in the ag world, things we're doing creative and innovation, stuff like that. I like to help business entrepreneurs. If you're trying to find our product locally, if you go to unclematts.

com and look on the product locator page, enter your zip code in there and it'll tell you exactly what stores nearby. We are sold in over 15, 000 stores. Nationwide, you can find us from Hawaii to Alaska to Maine, and even down in Puerto Rico.

Fantastic I really appreciate you sharing these stories.

I have found this to be a great overlap of agriculture which I wasn't expecting a lesson on orange farming but wow, it really brings it to life this idea of organic, let's don't forget, it's about the agriculture. And so thanks for bringing that in and of course the creativity of the. The products and the packaging and the advertising, and like you said, the social media, all that's good stuff.

Matt McClain has been my guest. I like to just call him Uncle Matt. From now on, he's just my Uncle Matt. Thanks for being on the show, Matt. I really appreciate it.

Hey, likewise, Mark. Thank you to you and to all of your listeners. Keep being creative. We need you.

That's right. And listeners, do come back for the next time.

We've stamped our creative passport in Clermont, Florida. It's west of Orlando, right between, if I get this right, the Minnehaha and the Mineola rivers or lakes. Matt's in a great location there, but we're going to continue our around the world travels. We'll be learning from creative practitioners everywhere about getting inspired and organizing ideas. But boy, as we've heard today, getting the commitment to get our work, our products out into the world and express our mission and our creativity in lots of different ways. So thanks to Matt McLean for being my guest. I'm Mark Stinson, Come back again next time, and we'll keep unlocking your world of creativity.

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About the Podcast

Your World of Creativity
Catalyst of Inspiration, Stories, and Tools to Get Your Work Out Into the World
On YOUR WORLD OF CREATIVITY, best-selling author and global brand innovator, Mark Stinson introduces you to some of the world’s leading creative talent from publishing, film, animation, music, restaurants, medical research, and more.

In every episode, you'll discover:
- How to tap into your most original thinking.
- Inspiration from the experts’ own experience.
- Specific tools, exercises, and formulas to organize your ideas.
- And most of all, you’ll learn how to make connections

 and create opportunities to publish, post, record, display, sell, market, and promote
 your creative work.

Listen for the latest insights for creative people who want to stop questioning themselves and overcome obstacles to launch their creative endeavors out into the world.

Connect with Mark at www.Mark-Stinson.com

About your host

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Mark Stinson

Mark Stinson has earned the reputation as a “brand innovator” -- an experienced marketer, persuasive writer, dynamic presenter, and skilled facilitator. His work includes brand strategy and creative workshops. He has contributed to the launches of more than 150 brands, with a focus on health, science, and technology companies. Mark has worked with clients ranging from global corporations to entrepreneurial start-ups. He is a recipient of the Brand Leadership Award from the Asia Brand Congress and was included in the PharmaVoice 100 Most Inspiring People in the Life-Sciences Industry.