For more than 150 years, Mayer Bros. has been turning apples from local farmers into apple cider.
Today, the West Seneca company has about 200 employees and has branched out beyond its traditional apple cider to bottled water and has added smaller product lines that make lemonade, cranberry juice and iced tea.
It's also a seasonal destination for Western New Yorkers. About 10,000 visitors each year stop by its cider mill store off Transit Road in West Seneca.
The company also is updating its local facilities. Mayer Bros. is investing $8.9 million to upgrade its apple-pressing operations and install a new hard cider line, as well as add new equipment for its bottling line.
Garrett Mayer, Mayer Bros. treasurer and general manager, talked about the business and its future.
Q: What's the goal of Mayer Bros. investments in its operations?
A: It's an $8.9 million investment over a period of five years. We're investing in our water facilities. We're improving our efficiency. We've been making improvements to our bottling line. At the end of the day, it increases our capacity.
Q: Are the investments targeted at any particular product line?
A: We've done expansions in every product line.
Q: Where do you get your sales?
A: About half of our sales come from apple cider. About half is from bottled water. Most of that is private label products.
We've expanded our apple cider capacity by about 30 percent over the last couple of years. The overall goal is to be able to run our facilities at capacity, and we've pretty much been able to do that.
Q: How many apples do you use in a year?
A: It takes about 12 pounds of apples to make a gallon of apple cider. So I'd say that, maybe, we use about 12 million pounds of apples a year.
Q: Do most of them come from growers in Western New York?
A: They do.
Q: I'd think that would make Mayer Bros. one of the biggest, if not the biggest, consumer of apples in Western New York.
A: I would think so.
Q: How's the water business?
A: The water business has been very difficult. There's very stiff competition. The Canadian government subsidizes its producers.
Q: Who do you supply locally with your water business?
A: We supply Tops Markets' private label water. At Walmart, we supply their gallon water bottles. For Aldi, we do their single-serving containers.
Q: The company has been held out as an example of how lower-cost electricity from the state, through its Recharge New York program, can help local businesses. How has it helped Mayer Bros.?
A: We get two allocations from the program. One is for our West Seneca operations and another is for our facility in Barker. It gives us a savings of about $5,000 a month. We have an allocation of 626 kilowatts. Our power bill is about $83,000 a month. It's about a 6 percent savings.
Q: How important was it for Mayer Bros. to have the program changed so that you now have a long-term commitment from the state to receive lower-cost electricity, instead of going year to year, as it was under the Power for Jobs program it replaced?
A: It's important because it makes it easier to do long-term planning. It would be nice if there were more available. It's important when we're competing against people based in Canada and Pennsylvania on the waterfront and Ohio. There are people based in other states that aren't subject to the same rules of the game.