- Orange juice retail sales in the U.S. increased 46% from the year before to 44 million gallons in the four weeks ending April 11, Bloomberg reported. Futures trading also jumped 27%, the highest it has been in a year.
- While orange juice sales are at their highest peak since January 2015, adverse weather has hampered the production of fresh oranges, causing prices to soar as much as 2.7% to $1.27 per pound. In early March, prices were around 94 cents per pound.
- This spike in orange juice consumption can be attributed to consumers seeking out immunity-boosting food and drink, like vitamin C-rich citrus, during the pandemic.
After two decades of decline, orange juice consumption is finally reversing the trend. Shelter-in-place orders have led more Americans to consume the vitamin C-filled beverage. In the first quarter of 2020, formerly lackluster products outperformed expectations, and orange juice was the best-performing commodity for the quarter, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Despite closures of cafeterias and restaurants, which have historically accounted for a large portion of U.S. orange juice sales, retail sales have made up for lost ground. CNBC reported sales of Uncle Matt’s organic orange juice increased 30% since March. Florida grower W.G. Roe & Sons logged sales growth of more than 20% in March and April, with 80% of the increase in business due to retail consumption.
Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid and Simply orange juice brands are seeing higher sales and so is PepsiCo-owned Tropicana, according to discussions with executives reported by CNBC and the Wall Street Journal, respectively.
Orange juice is not the only citrus drink to see rapid sales growth. Bloomberg reported Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice saw sales of orange and grapefruit juice grow 50% in the second half of March. They climbed another 90% in the second half of April.
Fresh citrus fruit has also seen a boost in sales. Grapefruits have had an 8.2% increase in domestic and foreign shipments. Orange shipments have jumped 23%, and tangerine and tangelo shipments climbed 26%, according to data from the Citrus Department reported by The Ledger.
However, with 20 years of declining consumption habits to overcome, it remains to be seen if this represents a long-term reversal. The amount of orange juice consumers drink has decreased as consumer concern about the sugar content of fruit juice and its links to health problems — such as obesity and heart disease — has risen. By 2017, consumers were drinking 60% less orange juice than in 1998, when people averaged 6.1 gallons per capita, according to USDA data cited by CNBC.
Although fruit and fruit juices are naturally sweet since they contain fructose, which is sweeter than table sugar, most juices are less nutrient dense than one might think. While fruit juice has vitamins and phytonutrients that sugar-sweetened beverages do not, sugar and water are the main components in both, and the biochemical response when they are metabolized is the same. Studies have backed up claims that drinking fruit juice is just as detrimental to health as other sugary beverages and sodas. A study published in JAMA Network found each 12-ounce daily serving of fruit juice is associated with a 24% higher mortality risk.
To help offset the risk associated with drinking sugary fruit juice, consumers have not only opted for less, but they have also turned to 100% fruit juice options. The 100% juice segment began showing progress toward a turnaround before the pandemic, according to a 2016 Tetra Pak report. Consumers today still seem to be favoring a more natural product. A report from the Florida Department of Citrus showed during the four weeks ending March 14, sales of 100% orange juice products rose 9.8%.
If consumers continue favoring 100% juice, more oranges will be needed, which could make it more expensive. Prices were already high because of bad weather in Brazil, the world’s largest orange juice exporter, where farmers were expecting a poor harvest season. In Florida, where the majority of U.S. oranges are produced, hurricanes have damaged crops in the past, This year, concerns about having enough workers to harvest the produce is further contributing to price increases.