OJ Gets Squeezed
Can the Icon of the American Breakfast Table Compete in a Low-Carb World?
By Judith Weinraub
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 16, 2004; Page F01
What highly nutritious food is defending itself to American consumers -- even though they've consumed it happily for decades?
What drink is full of potassium, folic acid, vitamin C and a slew of antioxidants?
What longtime American favorite has slipped enough in sales that its industry is now mounting a major advertising campaign?
The answer to all these questions is orange juice.
Shunned by the low-carb diets for its concentrated carbohydrates and pummeled by a drop in sales, orange juice is having to polish up its image for the American public. Instead of being hailed for its many health benefits, orange juice has become an easy carbohydrate to forgo. And the orange juice industry is worried.
Orange juice consumption is at an all-time low, according to Florida Citrus Mutual, a trade association of 11,000 citrus growers. In the past two years, orange juice consumption has dropped about 5 percent. Last year, Americans drank about 4.7 gallons of orange juice. In 1997, the figure was 5.8 gallons. Since 1999, overall orange juice consumption has dropped 10.8 percent.
In the past year -- the time that corresponds to the growing popularity of the South Beach Diet -- that drop has been particularly noticeable. In the 52 weeks preceding April 18 alone, chilled orange juice sales fell 4.1 percent by volume, according to Information Resources Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm.
"The low-carb diet is the single biggest factor in the decrease in orange juice sales," says Dan Gunter, executive director for the Florida Department of Citrus.
"Slightly under 80 percent of American households right now buy orange juice," says Gunter. "Two years ago, it was about 81 percent." Gunter added the drop was particularly noticeable in the "heavy user" category -- households that consume 12.5 gallons or more annually.
In December 2003, the Florida citrus department asked the A.C. Nielsen Co. to investigate the sales drop and look at the connection between low-carb attitudes and orange juice. The findings: Over the past year, of the 2,600 households randomly surveyed, 26 percent of people knowingly reduced their orange juice consumption. And of that 26 percent, 35 percent did so because of low-carb dieting.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
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