OJ Gets Squeezed
Last month, the citrus department turned to television as part of a $1.8 million campaign to revitalize orange juice sales. Its catchy ad features an upbeat guy throwing things into a blender to make an ideal but very unattractive health drink: rutabagas for vitamin C, liver for thiamin, Brussels sprouts for vitamin B6, a little fish for magnesium. Or, he says, you could just drink a glass of Florida orange juice.
The point, after all, is sales. And, according to Florida Citrus Mutual, this year's drop in sales is happening when there is a record orange crop on the Florida trees and a record high amount of already-squeezed juice in storage.
Historically, the orange juice industry has developed products designed to attract new consumers or to raise the level of American orange juice consumption. This is one of those times. "It's an uphill battle," says Gunter. "There are lots of competing products on the market. Consumers are bombarded with marketing messages every day. Only 16 percent of American users drink orange juice every day. Lots of consumers drink it three days a week or often. But we know there's room for expanding our sales."
At times, those products have been designed to meet a lifestyle preference; at other times, to meet an actual or perceived nutritional need. There are juices available, for example, that appeal to parents' concerns for their children's health, to consumers worried about heart disease and to those who are trying to bolster their immune system or are sensitive to a high-acid diet. "When we can, we take the opportunity to do innovations to create a niche that will drive sales," says Minute Maid's Torrey.
Currently, the industry is developing and pushing products that appeal to the low-carb crowd. Last month, Minute Maid, which is owned by Coca-Cola, brought out Minute Maid Premium Light, with half the carbs, calories and sugar of regular orange juice. Next week, Tropicana, which is owned by PepsiCo, will bring out a revised version of its new Tropicana Lite'n Healthy, with half the carbs, calories and sugar of regular juice. (In January, the product was introduced with one-third the sugar, calories and carbs, but then was reconfigured, making it competitive with Minute Maid's Premium Light.) "It's a complete match [with Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice] from a nutritional standpoint," says Coughlin.
The industry is naturally hoping that the low-carb way of life is a trend rather than a revolution. "We think it will run its course," says Minute Maid's Torrey. "I believe people will go back to what makes sense -- a balanced diet governed by reason and discipline."
Many other people who don't make their living selling orange juice are urging consumers to adopt a balanced attitude as well.
"When you look at foods through a low-carb lens, you miss the big picture," says Ed Blonz, an author with a PhD in nutrition. "If you want to lower the risk of chronic diseases -- obesity, diabetes or coronary heart disease -- it makes little sense to reject wholesome, nutrient-dense foods such as orange juice in favor of a low-carb, fast-food entree or some carb-free processed food. Orange juice has vitamin C, folic acid, potassium and untold naturally occurring beneficial compounds. All this make it a great food."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
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