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Hidden Gems: Meet Susan McLean of Uncle Matt’s Organic

Hi Susan, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
As VP of Marketing and Innovation at Uncle Matt’s Organic Inc., I wear a lot of hats. That’s not too surprising since the company I run with my husband, Matt (Uncle Matt), is America’s #1 selling organic orange juice. I’m primarily responsible for the development and execution of overall brand strategy, marketing programs, digital campaigns, and retail packaging. I also oversee all shopper marketing programs and I lead our brand innovation pipeline.

All of this hard work has paid off, generating double-digit growth for our business and helping our company secure their first NEXTY Award for ‘Best New Organic Beverage’ with our brand new functional beverage offering, Ultimate Immune. I have been working with Uncle Matt’s Organic since 2003 when I took the brand on as a client at my own marketing agency, which provided digital and print marketing services to over 200 clients. Little did I know I’d soon become an Uncle Matt’s Organic “lifer” when my story took a romantic turn and I married Matt McLean in 2006, joining a farming family steeped in organic and sustainable agriculture. I spent the next 11 years helping to grow Uncle Matt’s Organic until Dean Foods offered to buy our company in 2017. Part of the deal included me staying on to run the business, along with my husband. In my almost three years at Dean Foods, I helped grow the business with expansion into functional beverages, frozen novelties and energy drinks.

In May of 2020, in an unusual turn of events, we bought Uncle Matt’s Organic back from Dean Foods during their bankruptcy process and now… we are back where it all began. Together with my husband, we are also investors in a variety of organic and better-for-you businesses and I am committed to lending my expertise to help these businesses grow.

As an entrepreneur committed to wellness, 2020 was time to branch out of the CPG business to realize a dream that’s been on the back burner for years. Together with my friend Dr. Kristina McLean, we have launched a new, woman-owned venture with the purchase of a 100+ acre property in Western North Carolina that will be opening in 2021. This mountain hideaway will offer luxury glamping, cabins and treehouses for people to experience a true connection with nature in a beautiful and peaceful setting — all socially distanced, of course.

I am also a professional portrait photographer, which as a creative, fuels my passion. As the owner and creative behind McLean Photography, I’ve captured several hundred families across central Florida, and it has been a blessing to chronicle a families milestones as they have babies, add to their families, adopt or go through seasons of trial.

I graduated from Rollins College, B.S. Politics with Honors. In addition to my co-ownership and full-time role at Uncle Matt’s Organic, I’m very passionate about fitness, health and wellness, sustainability, and organic farming. I enjoy CrossFit and powerlifting, as well as hiking. My husband and I have two daughters and live in Florida.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
It has not always been a smooth road. With agriculture, you are at the mercy of Mother Nature. We’ve suffered the ravages of hurricanes, citrus greening disease (which currently has no cure), and changes in consumer preferences that have pushed us to pivot and innovate. But often, most challenges refine and develop you — both professionally and personally — and allow you to push through obstacles to hopefully experience future success. That’s always the goal, and to never give up. As an entrepreneur, tenacity wins.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I’m the VP of Marketing for the nation’s oldest and #1 selling organic orange juice company in America. What sets us apart as a company is we truly practice what we preach; being family-owned, we are committed to organic farming (our family is 4th generation citrus growers and 7th generation Floridians), we are the first juice company in North America to be certified glyphosate residue-free, and we are passionately committed to working with other farmers and growers in Florida and beyond to convert to organic. In addition, we are the 2020 NEXTY award recipient for the “Organic Beverage of the Year” and in 2015, my father-in-law was also the Farmer of the Year (nationwide award from the Organic Trade Association). Our functional and 100% organic juices are available nationwide in stores like Whole Foods Market, Publix, Kroger, Target, Sprouts and more.

How do you think about luck?
There is some luck associated with agriculture in general — you never know if you’ll get a hurricane or freeze that will wipe out your crops!

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Image Credits

© McLean Photography

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