Martinelli's Apple Juice: Now With Mold!

Byron discovered something extra in his sealed 10 oz bottle of Martinelli’s Gold Medal apple juice. Hovering calmly inches above “BEST BY 11 Jan 09,” is an icky yellow cloud of mold. Byron, slightly perturbed, wrote to S. Martinelli:

I would like to say first and foremost that I have been a loyal customer of Martinelli’s for a number of years now. I think highly of your company’s products and have purchased them on many occasions thus far. Unfortunately, your product has not performed well on two separate purchases. I am disappointed because your product contained something other than apple juice that appears to be “mold” floating in (1) of the sealed plastic bottles. Last year, I purchased and then returned a case of Martinelli’s Gold Medal

Apple Juice #105) and upon opening the case, was again disappointed to find the presence of a foul smelling “vinegar”-like odor coming from one of glass bottles with some black colored specs also floating in the bottles.

Maybe it’s not mold. Maybe it’s the souls of evil apples suspended in a stasis called Martinelli’s. Nah, it’s probably mold.

After the jump, Byron’s email, Martinelli’s response, and the mold posing for a glamour shot.


Byron’s email:
On March 18, 2007, I purchased a 24 pack of Martinelli’s Gold Medal

10 oz Apple Juice; serial number: (side of 24pack: W01107-04) Date on bottle: “Best*By 11JAN09 02:37 KOSHER” at Costco, located at ********************.

I would like to say first and foremost that I have been a loyal customer of Martinelli’s for a number of years now. I think highly of your company’s products and have purchased them on many occasions thus far. Unfortunately, your product has not performed well on two separate purchases. I am disappointed because your product contained something other than apple juice that appears to be “mold” floating in (1) of the sealed plastic bottles. Last year, I purchased and then returned a case of Martinelli’s Gold Medal

Apple Juice #105) and upon opening the case, was again disappointed to find the presence of a foul smelling “vinegar”-like odor coming from one of glass bottles with some black colored specs also floating in the bottles.

I look forward to your reply and a resolution to my problem, and will wait until (1-3 weeks) before seeking help from a consumer protection agency or the Better Business Bureau and posting my complaint on http://www.consumerist.com. Please contact me at the above address, by phone at (***) ******** or email at *****.com.

http://consumermediallc.files.wordpress.com/2007/03/juice2-thumb.jpg?w=402&h=500Martinelli’s response:

Thank you for contacting S.Martinelli & Company. Please accept our apologies for these unfortunate incidents. I have given our QA department the Best By information you have given me so they can check on that particular batch of juice. I would be glad to send you a reimbursement check for the 2 bottles, or some coupons toward your next purchase. Please let me know which you prefer.

Sincerely,

Donna Hanlon
S.Martinelli & Company
Consumer Services
1800-662-1868

We prefer our apple juice without mold in the first place, thank you. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

Comments

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  1. umonster says:

    That’s too bad: Martinelli’s is hands down the best apple juice I’ve ever imbibed.

  2. timmus says:

    Hmm… would this be a form letter response? Or is that realistically the best they can do?

  3. grouse says:

    Why should they do more? They offered full reimbursement for the bad apple juice (in real money).

  4. dantsea says:

    Huh. Never had a problem in the 20+ years of using their products so I’m inclined to dismiss this as “sometimes stuff just happens”. I’m not certain what it is the company did wrong here, to deserve Carey’s snark. They responded, told the customer what they would do and offered a refund or coupons. Sounds to me like they’re acting responsibly.

    @timmus: What more do you think they should have done?

  5. adrocks says:

    I think maybe this is what you would call a “mother” . That is the bacteria culture from which vinegar is made. Hence the vinegar odor. How it got there I’m not excusing Martinelli’s from selling the product. But I thought the information could be usefull. Plus, if you kept the bottle eventually you would have martinelli’s cider vinegar!

  6. jifka says:

    I’m just an unfrozen caveman, and your world frightens and confuses me, but I know one thing – this article hardly deserves a post. I thought this site was dedicated to protecting consumer interests in the face of corporate indifference and greed. Occasional problems are a normal, if unfortunate consequence of manufacturing. Stuff (mold?) happens, and Martinelli & Co. responded appropriately. Where’s the “man bites dog” in this story?

  7. spdustin says:

    This is the kind of thing that DOESN’T deserve to be posted here on Consumerist if you’re hoping to be, er, fair and balanced about these sorts of issues.

    A well-written complaint includes a call to action; Byron’s letter simply asked for a “resolution”, and that resolution — a full refund, or coupons to replace the bad bottles. Seems like a satisfaction guarantee, executed properly, to me.

    Please don’t post stuff like this; I’ve come to respect what Consumerist represents, but contrary to the oft-quoted rule, the customer isn’t always right. And, in this case, she’s dead wrong. She got the appropriate offer for compensation, and now she wants people to tell her she deserves more.

    Byron: You don’t deserve more. You deserve your money back or new bottles. You didn’t drink it, it didn’t cause you to miss out on an important meeting, and your family and pets are still alive. Don’t be greedy, take your $2 and be happy with it.

  8. WindowSeat says:

    Martinelli’s is a great product and I think that a bad bottle is probably pretty rare. They don’t use preservatives so a bad bottle probably isn’t completely unexpected out of the millions they produce.

    I can a lot of organic tomatoes and fruit from my garden, using no preservatives and despite taking every precaution I will get a jar of something go bad while all the other jars are fine. I can only imagine what happens on a commercial scale.

    I think the response from Martinelli was appropriate. I’m not sure what else they could do.

  9. superlayne says:

    I think this is an ‘just at level and meeting standards’ post. The company responded, offered money, and moved on with it’s life.
    Customer service, the decent minimum!

    I have never had this product. Funny, now I want to try it. Without the mold, of course.

  10. Mike_ says:

    First, there’s no need to include threats in this sort of message. Describe the problem and wait for their reply. If they don’t respond, or if the response is unsatisfactory, you’re justified in stepping up the rhetoric. In your letter, you’re talking about dragging them through the mud before they’ve even had an opportunity to react. That makes you seem unreasonable.

    Second, Martinelli’s response was exemplary:

    (1) Apologize.
    (2) Refer the issue to Quality Control.
    (3) Compensate the customer.

    What more could you possibly expect from them? Whatever it is, you’re being unreasonable.

    Third, you received a nice response in which Martinelli reacts appropriately to your complaint, and you proceeded with your attack anyway. Did you bother to follow up to elaborate on what your expectations are, and how they have not been met? No. You threw Martinelli into the grinder. Unreasonable.

    Carey, I know gross-out pictures make for good blog posts, but you should have exercised some restraint here. Why punish a company for doing exactly what we should expect of them?

  11. Ass_Cobra says:

    I’m in agreement with the sentiment above. This is sensationalism and just manufacturing something for the sake of turning out a post. The customer got a response

  12. velvetjones says:

    The mold is unacceptable, but it looks a lot like, and probably is “mother of vinegar.” Simply put the juice has turned. Time to make salad dressing.

  13. brooklynbs says:

    The seal on the bottle was probably broken, letting in air and allowing the mold to grow. It’s not uncommon for isolated problems to occur in mass-produced food products (a skunky beer, a bad bag of microwave popcorn, a flat soda, stale box of crackers, etc.).

    In the end, the company responded quickly and appropriately. Martinelli should get credit for treating the customer respect.

  14. ptkdude says:

    I agree with the majority of commenters here. Things occasionally go wrong with products from absolutely every company out there. How the company responds is where the differences lie. Martinelli did everything they should have done here. Let’s be realistic; this was a bottle of apple juice, not a computer you paid $3000 for. A full refund and/or some free coupons are an appropriate response. The fact that they state in their letter they are taking action by referring the issue to Quality Control is the part where they go above and beyond what an “average” company would do.

    I honestly thing had you approached a “consumer protection agency” they would have told you you were wasting your time pursuing it further. We all love free stuff, but how much is your time worth?

  15. davere says:

    One time I bought a bottle of Diet Dew from a vending machine and notice small “floaters” around the bottle. I called the customer service number and I was told that it was mold. However, the lady on the phone made it sound as if it was not a big deal and explained that it happens a lot and added “it’s perfectly safe to drink.”

    When I express my doubts, she offered to send me some coupons.

    A made the mistake of buying other bottles in the next few weeks and several of them contained the same floaters. I don’t buy Diet Dew anymore.

  16. I was less than impressed with Martinelli’s response.

    I have given our QA department the Best By information you have given me so they can check on that particular batch of juice.

    No need to give them the ‘Best By’ information. Just forward them the pictures. That batch of juice has mold.

    I would be glad to send you a reimbursement check for the 2 bottles, or some coupons toward your next purchase.

    The reimbursement offer could have been stronger. The juice pictured was purchased as part of a 24-pack from Costco. The cost of one bottle is probably less than a dollar or two. “Some coupons” is also incredibly vague.

    John was also complaining about two separate incidents of quality-control failure. The juice with “black colored specks” were not purchased as part of the 24 pack.

    Yes they responded to the issue, but I would have liked to see more information. Given that Martinelli’s is a natural product that doesn’t use preservatives, what efforts (other than a forward to the quality assurance team) does Martinelli’s take to keep their products safe and fresh?

  17. RST1123 says:

    Martinelli’s makes the best apple juice in the world – consequently, that cloud was probably just a saturated pocket of flavor. Also, I’ve never seen that cap on a Martinelli apple juice bottle; most often, there is a popping aluminum twist cap. I know so, because I chug from a 1.5 Liter behemoth jug of Martinelli’s apple juice whenever my thirst requires quenching.

  18. RST1123 says:

    Also, why is SOULS a keyword for this story, If I wanted to see stories about souls, the last place I would looks is an article about Martinelli’s apple juice. :P

  19. Beelzebub says:

    It’s a fairly normal occurence that some products that aren’t laden with artifical preservatives get some unwanted mold.

    I actually take this as a reminder of exactly why I like Martinelli’s — it’s truly natural. Also glad they have clear bottles :)

    This consumer probably could have saved himself a lot of trouble, and just brought it back to where ever he got it, rather than go after Martinellis, who absolutely responded appropriately.

    Non-story of the day!

  20. infinitysnake says:

    Yeah, the threat is totally in bad traste- especially as Costco would have happily replaced the juice. Also, this is probably due to someoine in the supply chain allowing the bottles to get too hot (on a truck, loading eamp, etc), which can loosen the hermetic seal enouygh to ruin it.

  21. infinitysnake says:

    @Mike_: “Third, you received a nice response in which Martinelli reacts appropriately to your complaint, and you proceeded with your attack anyway. Did you bother to follow up to elaborate on what your expectations are, and how they have not been met? No. You threw Martinelli into the grinder. Unreasonable.”

    Agreed, pretty low.

  22. spdustin says:

    @Carey: Giving them the “best by” information allows them to track down the date/plant/machinery responsible for that batch. Honestly, are you even reading what people are saying about this one?

    Martinelli did the right thing. The complaint writer did not. And by supporting his/her “let’s throw them under the bus, the heathens!” philosophy, you’ve lost a lot of your readers’ respect. Including mine.

  23. ptkdude says:

    @Chris:

    I actually initially thought he posted this to consumerist.com despite what he says in his letter, but I don’t think that’s the case. He did not say he would post this after 3 weeks if he didn’t get a response; he actually said he would wait up to 3 weeks to receive their response before posting to consumerist. The implication is that he will wait for their response so the complaint isn’t hanging out on the internet for 3 weeks before there’s a response from the company.

  24. Mike_ says:

    @Carey:

    Quality Control needs the timestamp to identify which batch those containers came from. They likely have samples from each production run, and they’ll pull one from their own inventory to test in their QC lab. Without the “best by” date, the picture is pretty much meaningless.

    Replacing the bottles he was unable to use is completely fair and reasonable. I’m sure if he was fussy, they would have gone the extra yard and given him a whole case. We’ll never know, though, because he pulled a bastard move and submitted his story without giving them an opportunity to meet his expectations.

    As brooklynbs said, one plausible explanation is that the seal on the lid broke, allowing air and mold spores into the bottle. Whatever caused it, the mold is probably better for you than the chemicals other manufacturers put in their juice to keep mold from taking hold when this happens. And in all likelihood, the rest of the bottles in the case are fine.

  25. a says:

    @jifka:

    I’m just an unfrozen caveman, and your world frightens and confuses me, but I know one thing

    Oh, man, thank you for that Phil Hartman reference. Genius! I need to use that in more arguments!

  26. tedyc03 says:

    I’m satisfied with the customer service response. Perhaps they could have offered a new 24-pack; but still, they fixed the problem which is what Customer Service is for.

    Stuff happens and there’s no reason we shouldn’t expect that in a mass-produced food that there might be problems. And for those who are surprised that they forwarded the Best By information to QA, understand that in order to log complaints and determine in the future if a recall might be neccessary they have to have that information (if a recall was necessary, they would know by the number of complaints about that particular batch; the photos would be ineffective to match up this complaint with others).

    I think that it is important for us to remember that some companies have good customer service and work hard for their customers, and sometimes those companies make mistakes. Fixing the mistake is more important than never making one, and is certainly a more realistic goal.

  27. zolielo says:

    I too agree with the others; non-issue as there is bound to be some quality control problems and the matter was handled well.

    With a bit of different wording by Carey, this topic could have been spun from snide to praise. Oh well…

  28. reeg2 says:

    @Carey:

    I think your response shows a complete lack of understanding how food manufacturing works…

    No action will be taken by the company of any potential problem if QA is not involved. For the company to outright state that QA is getting involved shows that they are taking this seriously. As stated above, the company has retains of all products it ships, so the batch number or best by date are crucial to being able to pull that retain. If the retain shows evidence of mold or whatever it is, then the company can appropriately respond.

    I just echo what other posters’ have said; that the company has responded, offered to compensate for the trouble and see that the consumer leaves happy. In actuality, this is probably not even a manufacturing issue. As others’ stated, it could be a storage issue, a broken seal, or perhaps even a consumer problem. Does he have these stored in a warm, moist place?

    Too often, the blame is pinned on the manufacturer (of which I am one) when it’s actually further down the line. In this case, both the manufacturer and retailer gladly did or would have made good on this product.

    Not everything deserves a written apology and compensation and if it were me, I’d have just tossed these two jars and moved on…

  29. The Walking Eye says:

    @ Carey:

    “That batch has mold in it.”

    No, one bottle that we know of from that batch has mold in it. This happens when there’s a faulty seal or the cap on the bottle isn’t seated properly or is loosened enough w/o breaking the tamper-band to allow air in and mold to grow.

    “The reimbursement offer could have been stronger.”

    Why? This problem could have happened away from the point of manufacture. If it was a faulty seal, that’s on the maker of the plastic cap. If someone down the supply line accidentally twisted the cap, that’s not the manufacturer’s problem.

    Costco could exchange the entire case, but that would make sense and not get people all fired up about a company not bending over for a customer who threatened w/o provocation. The customer is being an ass in this situation for no good reason.

    He could have been normal and called the company up saying, “Hey, there’s mold in this here bottle, you guys should check to make sure it’s not a problem elsewhere.”

    And then he could have taken the case back to Costco, and said, “Hey there’s mold in one of these here bottles, can I return it?”

    Costco would have said, “Sure sir! We’re very sorry for that, and we’ll check the rest of our inventory and follow up with the manufacturer to make sure they don’t send us anymore moldy apple juice.”

    But he chose to write a letter that to me says he’s got dollar signs in his eyes. That the company replied w/in his timeframe and offered a reasonable solution, why did this get posted? These types of posts have been going up more recently here, especially on the weekends.

    Given the amount of processing that occurs for our canned and bottled products, you should be more impressed that this occurs so rarely than eager to jump on the company when it does.

  30. mopar_man says:

    @The Walking Eye:

    *Applauds* Very good post. I’ve been reading all the people against Byron and Carey and agree with them but you made the best post so far.

    I think this post should be removed. Sure there are a lot of people posting to defend the company but why should they? There’s no good reason for this to be up unless it’s to show that a company can still have customer service. Most stories on here point out companies not giving a shit about their customers. Here’s one rare occasion where the company actually did something right and they’re trying to be shown in a bad light?

  31. puka_pai says:

    Am I the only one who is glad to see this entry?

    Martinelli’s response was exactly what it should have been, and that makes me MORE likely to buy their product from here on out. And if/when I go back to the grocery business, I’ll be more likely to recommend their product to customers, too.

  32. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    The problem is unfortunate, but the response seems appropriate. Out of the millions and millions of food items that roll through the manufacturing plants throughout the world, it doesn’t seem unlikely that there will be an occasional few that will be contaminated. If it looks bad and/or smells funny, don’t eat it!

    I mean, what else are they going to do…give the guy a million-trillion dollars because he found a bad bottle of apple juice? I think it’s a bit premature to threaten them with bringing in the national guard. Unless someone can prove that Martenilli’s willfully sold contaminated juice and knew about it, there’s not much else to say.

  33. vince-johnson says:

    Dont be a baby, take the replacement and enjoy. Martinellis has been a staple of American culture since 1868. I work as a QA engineer for a large software firm and I can tell you for years of experience that like software, apple juice is prepared by humans, since no human is perfect, no product made by human hands will be either.

    Im thirsty after this rant, so i’ll step off of my apple crate and get a glass of Martinellis…

  34. Beelzebub says:

    @puka_pai:

    Good point — I’m going out to buy some Martinelli’s right now!

    Take that, stupid mold!

  35. badkins says:

    Martinelli should have no obligation to do more than they did. I agree that the customer was a little rough in the initial email. You don’t have to start off threatening. I find that the nicer I am to the customer service rep the more willing they are to help me. I understand when there is a company that has had massive problems and are unwilling to help. “Indifference and Greed” as it was said earlier.

    This is simply an isolated incident, and Martinelli’s reputation should not be tarnished for not being perfect. Every company has its incidents, it is when the problem becomes widespread and when the company does nothing in the way of reconciliation that they deserve a good threat and discipline. Martinelli’s response was more than adequate.

    Customer service should be expected to resolve and reimburse for a problem. Sure, it IS great when a company goes above and beyond by offering more than simple reimbursement and QA. But it CANNOT and SHOULD NOT be expected.

    If my pizza is totally screwed up by Pizza Hut, I expect a new pizza for free, not a free pizza party.

    Companies and customer service representatives can be horrible and difficult people to deal with, but so can we, the customers. Companies many times deserve the blame, but it is way too easy to expect way too much, what are we, royalty? no. We are the -consumer- of a product or service, and they are the producer. Both sides have to be reasonable. Not JUST the companies.

  36. OKH says:

    In all likelihood, the juice was fermenting and the slime you saw was a harmless by-product of that. You could have held out another two weeks and gotten free booze.

  37. Amy Alkon says:

    Martinellis is great apple juice. I drink the sparkling Martinellis every day, and have never had a bad bottle. The response here from the company is reasonable. Furthermore, as somebody noted above about one faulty seal/lack of preservatives, my 65-year-old French friend Pierre, a retired master woodworker who lives in Paris, always tells us, “It’s better to have bugs on lettuce than preservatives.” I only wish stores in the USA were allowed to sell unpasteurized cheese in all varieties (they can only sell the hard kind) which is much healthier for you than the cheese they cook the shit out of.

  38. The Bigger Unit says:

    Am I the only one who would’ve just thrown that bottle out, gotten another (assuming it looked good), and moved on with my day?

  39. SpyMaster says:

    Sounds like the guy won’t be happy until the company sends him a million dollars. Get real…it’s just a bad bottle or two…so what?

  40. infinitysnake says:

    @The Nature Boy: No, that seems to be the reasonable thing to do.

  41. fleurdesel says:

    Am I the only one who thinks that this is sediment and not mold? I’ve had many different brands of fresh apple juice, and many contained sediment. Sugary foodstuffs – particularly sealed ones – don’t provide the most hospitable climate for mold. Many brands of apple juice are naturally cloudy, and it makes sense that the fine particles would form a mass over time. Maybe it was a filtration problem.

  42. @The Nature Boy: No, that is what I would of done. Especially if it was part of a 24 pack like others said. one bad out of 24? not bad.

  43. Mike_ says:

    You know what sucks? This post already appears in the first page of Google results (pops) for Martinelli’s. People who follow the link will see the gross-out picture, but most won’t read the comments, where most of us agree that the submitter is unreasonable, Martinelli’s did what they were supposed to, and Carey should have never posted this crap. Of course, this small injustice will be forgotten by most as soon as it falls off the front page. Martinelli’s has to live with it every time someone Googles their name.

  44. ikes says:

    this reminds me, i need to buy some more kombucha.

  45. Ran Kailie says:

    @fleurdesel:

    I actually thought the same thing, back in the day my aunt use to give us Motts juice fresh from the plant where she works, and occasionally you’d get a bottle that had some sediment/apple parts in it. As long as it smelled okay there was nothing wrong with drinking it.

    I think Martinelli’s responded properly and I agree with everyone above that this should have never made it onto the consumerist. The poster shows a complete and utter lack of understanding about manufacturing methods in both the post and his comments.

  46. iMike says:

    @jfk:

    grd n ll cnts. Mst b slw “nws” dy.

  47. Carson Daly says:

    t’s slw “nws” dy vrywhr, dmn t. Thr’s nthng gng n.

    Hwvr, Mrtnll cld hv ffrd fr ppl tr fr th ncnvnnc – jst t swtn p th dl bt.

  48. Chris says:

    Ths s slly. n, th cmpny dd jst wht th gy skd, nd h stll fllwd thrgh wth hs thrt. Vry lm, nd hrdly nwswrthy.

    Scnd, Cry s “nmprssd” bcs thy skd fr th brn n dt? “N nd” t gv thm Dd, y wrt fr cnsmr ffrs wbst – d y hv NY d hw fd prdct cmpns prt? Thy ND tht nfrmtn s thy cn cmpr th flwd prdct wth thr smpls, nd n cs thr’s wdr prblm, s thy cn nvstgt nd cmmnct rcll.

    n thr nws, n pg f my nwsppr ws blrry tdy. tk t bck t th sprmrkt nd gt nthr cpy.

  49. simian-fever says:

    Pr pst nd n vn prr dfns f sd pst by th pstr n th cmmnts hr.

    Bsd n th rctns gss f nythng ths wll ctlly gt lt f ppl lk myslf t try Mrtnll’s.

    Wht knd f cstmr srvc/rmbrsmnt d gt f ldg cmplnt t th Cnsmrst fr dng bd jb nd wstng my tm wth pr psts? :) Tm s ppl jc! rr.. mny!

  50. infinitysnake says:

    @Cry: “N nd t gv thm th ‘Bst By’ nfrmtn. Jst frwrd thm th pctrs. Tht btch f jc hs mld.”

    Tht s s nblvbl gnrnt, cn’t blv jst rd t. Ths s XCTLY th rght rspns- thy nd tht nfrmtn t knw whch btch f jc my nd trckng/chckng fr th sfty f thr cstmrs. s fr s rplcmnt gs, qck stp t Cstc ws ll tht ws rqrd- wth rplcmnt nd wht s ffrd by th cmpny, h’s lrdy hd vn ftr bhvng bmnbly. (nd ny thr str wld hv bn plsd t ffr rtrn/xchng)

    nstd, th cstmr wth th mld chs t mk n ss whr thr ws nn, nd nw bth f y r ctng s f ths bttl s sm srt f lttry tckt, whr y gt bg prz fr mkng thrts nd tryng t pblcly shm cmpny tht s bvsly dng th rght thng. Th cnsmr hr hs sm rspnsblty t hs fllw cnsmrs, bt h pprs hr t b mr ntrstd n ntrty r rcmpns, nd y’r nt ctng rspnsbly hr by ncrgng t.

    Fd s trcky, nd prshbl- thr r t mny vrbls t prvnt vry pssbl nstnc f cntmntn. Hr y hv cmpny ctng mmdtly nd rspnsbly, nd yt y chs t pblcly xcrt thm nywys- nd th rsnng y gv s bg ngh t mk t bvs tht ths lttr wld hv gn p n mttr wht th rspns.

    nthr cmpny cts trgclly slwly t prvnt th dths f hndrds f nmls, nd y’r trshng Mrtnll fr ctlly tryng t nvstgt n ncdnt? Rdcls. Ths s jst shmfl. Ths s trly th frst tm ‘v bn mbrssd t b hr.

  51. Panhandler says:

    M TRGD nd DMND tht th Fdrl Gvrnmnt LMNT ll MLD frm th NVRNMNT. HLL? MTHR RTH clld. Sh wnts hr PPL JC BCK!? MLD=BSH’S MRKKK

    hh.