Summer Snow Juice

The family farm that almost wasn't.

Learn how one family farm uses a custom app to manage sales, production, and employee scheduling.

Summer Snow Juice


  • Family farm uses custom app to manage sales, production, and employee scheduling.


  • Food/Beverage


  • The FileMaker Platform empowers Australian company with granular sales data, apple juice production optimization, and easy tools to manage seasonal and regular employee certifications and scheduling.


  • Fewer bookkeeping errors and production efficiency gains give Summer Snow Juice a competitive edge.

Summer Snow Juice was born out of an unlikely disaster. It was Australia Day, January 26, 1998, and the holiday was unseasonably stormy. Hail pummeled the Australian state of Victoria, ruining Bellevue Orchard’s 100 acres of nearly-ripe apples. Brothers Robert and Joe Russo, who had recently purchased the decades-old farm, were at an impasse.

“Basically, the bank was ready to take the whole place,” said Nick Russo, Robert’s son and the company’s self-proclaimed "resident nerd."

Robert and Joe had two options. The first was sad but simple: call it quits and walk away. The second was riskier: they could try to find a way to do something different with their ruined crop.

The brothers decided to take the second route. They’d never made juice before, but it seemed like a logical thing to do with bruised, pockmarked apples.

Knowing they couldn’t compete with cheap apple juice concentrates being shipped in from overseas, they decided to make unique nectars from each apple varietal and market their product as high-quality Australian apple juice.

They’d offer juices like Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, and Pink Lady, along with other blends.

The hailstorm ended up being a blessing in disguise. Summer Snow Juice became a local, regional, and eventually a national favorite.

Our custom app became a big competitive advantage for us in the market. I always thought, 'Well, I'll use our custom app until we can find the perfect apple-juice-making software.' But that doesn't exist, so this is great.

— Nick Russo
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A time to grow

Things were going well when Nick joined the family business eight years ago. But as a member of the younger generation, he noticed some things his predecessors hadn’t. Namely, much of the business paperwork was being recorded twice, first on paper, then in an accounting software. The system had worked in the beginning when the business was just a much smaller operation. But as Summer Snow Juice grew, bookkeeping errors kept popping up. Worse, there was no easy way to analyze sales data.

“We could keep track of the money, but we couldn’t see what products were actually being sold,” said Nick. “We couldn’t query the data, see how many liters of what variety were going out, or how many we’d been selling to a particular customer.”

Those tasks seemed like things that the company should be able to do if it was going to grow. And Nick, who had used an early version of the FileMaker Platform when he was in high school, told his dad and uncle he thought they should start using the software.

They were willing to try, but some - like the company’s longtime bookkeeper - were skeptical. Nick decided he would convince them by building a custom app himself.

Using online tutorials, he learned to build a custom app to track sales and import data directly into the financial software Summer Snow Juice was already using.

“It’s important to us to be able to do things ourselves,” he said.

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Competitive advantage in the form of a custom app

Once Summer Snow Juice implemented Nick’s app, they finally had a way to track sales at a granular level. Plus, the app, accessed on Macs and iPad devices, was saving hours of redundant bookkeeping work. Slowly but surely, Nick convinced the entire company to invest time in learning and using the new app.

Eventually, Nick said, the app won everyone - including the bookkeeper - over.

Today the app does the administrative work of three full-time employees, allowing the company’s office staff to stay the same size despite a 7x increase in production output.

"Our custom app became a big competitive advantage for us in the market,” Nick noted. “I always thought, ‘Well, I’ll use our custom app until we can find the perfect apple-juice-making software. But that doesn’t exist, so this is great.”

In his quest to build the “perfect apple-juice-making software,” Nick added additional functionality to manage Summer Snow Juice’s production system.

Making juice may seem straightforward. However, with more than 20 varieties to produce, it becomes complex. Liquid must process in two vats over two days, and because Summer Snow Juice makes single-varietal juices and special blends, vats have to be cleaned out thoroughly to avoid mixing the wrong flavors.

However, if scheduled well, juices can be made in efficient order. For example, plain apple juice may be processed in a vat before an apple and ginger blend gets made. This type of scheduling avoids unnecessary cleaning.

Thanks to the company’s custom app, deployed to iPhone devices, workers can easily schedule vats, cut down on redundant cleanings, and speed up production.

Nick estimates that without the app’s scheduling capabilities, the company would spend $2,100 to $6,000 on redundant weekly washings. They would also need to increase the number of vats by 30% at a one-time cost of $75,000.

The custom app also allows the company to track juice batches — a necessity that’s required by Australian law in case a product is ever recalled. A recall has never happened, but Summer Snow Juice likes to be prepared, especially since the company now processes apples from other local orchards.

“Now, you can give me a bottle of our apple juice, I can look at the date on it and say which fruit from which orchard went into that bottle,” Nick said.

Summer Snow Juice also uses its custom app to schedule their 30 regular and 20 seasonal employees and keep track of specialized training credentials. That way, employees with credentials for using chemicals or certain heavy machinery can be easily scheduled into jobs that require it. This capability lightens the workload of office staff by about three hours per week during the busiest times of year.

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Accessible tech for everyday people

There’s a reason Nick is known as the resident nerd. Still, he likes that the FileMaker Platform doesn’t require everyone at Summer Snow Juice to speak technical language.

"The software allows you to make buttons that reflect exactly the task you want,” said Nick. “Very little training is required because the software mimics real life. I can create a button that uses the same vocabulary our staff does."

Mostly, Nick noted, he loves how the FileMaker Platform gives Summer Snow Juice the power to create an accessible app to power greater efficiency for the business.

“Ultimately I’m an apple farmer,” Nick said. "I don’t like implementing software just for the sake of it. But with our custom app, scheduling is easier and we’re able to roll things out more quickly. Having good software doesn’t make a good business. But it does allow a good business to scale."

Summer Snow Juice is currently sold by more than 190 retailers throughout Australia.

To learn more about the FileMaker Platform, download your free trial. To learn how to build your first custom app, visit the Custom App Academy to watch a series of free educational video tutorials.


Summer Snow Juice