Odwalla (pronounced “odewalla”) is the health-conscious juice company which began a couple of decades ago when Greg Steltenpohl, Gerry Percy and Bonnie Bassett began squeezing fresh oranges on a $200 hand juicer. The company was growing strongly with annual sales rising 30% per year and approaching $90m. The company had established a strong brand with enormous customer loyalty.
On October 30, 1996, everything changed. Health officials in Washington state informed the company that they had discovered a link between several cases of E. coli 0157:H7 and Odwalla fresh apple juice.
The link was confirmed on November 5. As the crisis played itself out, one child died and more than 60 people in the Western United States and Canada became sick after drinking the juice. Sales plummetted by 90%, Odwalla’s stock price fell 34%. Customers filed more than 20 personal-injury lawsuits and the company looked as though it could well be destroyed.
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