Pulp Fiction: Everything you thought you knew about orange juice is a lie

Big orange juice companies misled consumers by secretly selling smaller containers for the same price -- building on a bitter history of citrus shenanigans.


October 29, 2018

Last week, the largest orange juice companies in the US quietly reduced the juice in their jugs from 59-oz to 52-oz without lowering prices — misleading consumers in order to squeeze a few more drops of cash out of the shrinking citrus crop. 

And, this marketing ploy is just a short chapter in the long, shady story of the Sunshine State’s signature citrus drink.

If you bought OJ recently, you might have gotten fresh squeezed

Just because Big OJ says ‘not-from-concentrate’ doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention: But, since the containers looked identical and the prices didn’t rise, only power shoppers who optimize for every OJ-ounce would have noticed.

But Big OJ didn’t just trick consumers for sh*ts n’ giggles — they did it out of desperation.

Florida’s finest juices hide a dark reality: Orange production in the US fell from 382 boxes of oranges per acre in 2004 to just 178 boxes per acre — and it’s still dropping. 

Consumers are realizing orange juice has roughly the same sugar content as soda, and consumption is decreasing rapidly (it fell 6% last year), forcing juice-peddlers to get creative.  

This citrus stunt wasn’t the first… 

In 1904, struggling growers hired ad man Albert Lasker to help them sell more oranges. Lasker, an inspiration for Mad Men’s Don Draper, wrote the tagline that reinvented the fruit: ‘drink an orange.’ 

Before Lasker, OJ didn’t exist — but afterwards, other brands started selling OJ’s health benefits, claiming it was a crucial source of vitamins that could prevent everything from the common cold to ‘acidosis.’ To this day, OJ sales spike significantly during flu season.

But even with misleading marketing, the OJ industry faces an uphill battle: US orange production is expected to fall below 100m boxes in 2020 for the first time since 1964 — driving prices up when juice junkies are already dropping like flies.

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