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Nobody Gives a Damn About Frozen OJ Anymore

Frozen concentrated juices have been on the decline for decades, but now sales of the stuff are really in the pits, with Americans drinking just 1.4 million gallons worth per month compared to 19 million gallons of non-frozen juice.

by Wyatt Marshall
Aug 29 2016, 10:00pm

Remember those orange juice advertisements that proudly proclaimed that their product was "not from concentrate"? Tropicana, a titan of the OJ world, puts it right on the bottle and with extra oomph: "never from concentrate." After years of marketing efforts positioning not-from-concentrate orange juice as the superior form, there's little distinction left to make, and hardly anyone is buying concentrated orange juice anymore.

Frozen concentrated juices have been on the decline for decades—Americans began drinking more not-from-concentrate OJ than concentrate in the 1980s. But now sales of the frozen strong stuff are really in the pits, according to the Wall Street Journal, with Americans drinking just 1.4 million gallons worth per month compared to 19 million gallons of non-frozen juice.

There's just one facility devoted exclusively to producing concentrate orange juice left in Florida, and this year, amid a shrinking market, it's laying off about two thirds of its 94 workers. Concentrated juice was originally produced to get World War II troops their juice in far-flung fronts; it's smaller, easier to ship, and has a longer shelf life. Add water and you've got orange juice.

Right now, Florida could actually use some frozen OJ to get it through a tough few years. (Even if big orange juice producers have ways of making sure you get your orange juice year round.) Citrus greening, a bacterial infection, has cut yields from Florida's orange groves by 66 percent over recent years, from nearly 250 million boxes in 2003 to just over 80 million this year. Farmers have given up on more than 125,000 acres of orange groves bearing green, inedible fruit. Grove owners sometimes try to remove infected trees, but eradication efforts haven't worked. Thankfully, help will arrive this fall in the form of a disease management playbook that will aim to help farmers tackle the disease.

But even when it's not from concentrate, people are drinking less orange juice, with 2015 having the lowest consumption level on record since the industry-tracking firm Nielsen started monitoring orange juice consumption in 2002, according to the Journal. That's in part due to consumers turning to other juices and smoothies that have flooded the market of late.

Maybe some consumers will return to good ol' OJ after a brief dalliance with pomegranate juice and sales will rebound. But the turnaround for concentrate isn't as clear. Unless a jungle juice craze sweeps the nation, orange juice concentrate sales look poised to remain low.

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