How America fell out of love with orange juice
Per capita orange juice consumption jumped from under eight pounds per person in 1950, to over 20 pounds per person in 1960. Florida’s production of concentrated juice leapt from 226,000 gallons in 1946 to more than 116 million in 1962, according to a report by agricultural economist Robert A. Morris. By 1970, 90% of Florida’s oranges were being used to make orange juice and the vast majority of that was from concentrate.
The increased popularity of flash-pasteurized, ready-to-drink juice advertised as “not-from-concentrate” helped drive consumption still higher in the 1980s and 1990s.
But as you can see, things started to roll over in the late 1990s. Since 1998, US orange production and orange juice sales have fallen virtually every year. That decline comes despite strong population growth in the US, which means the average American consumes far fewer oranges today than she did in 2000.
An insect-born disease known as “citrus greening” has been hampering production, reducing supply, and raising prices. The disease hit south Florida in 2005. Scientists now believe just about every orange grove in the state of Florida is infected. Given that Florida still produces the vast majority of the US’s orange juice (over 80%, according to Florida Citrus) that’s a pretty big problem.
“It’s the most devastating issue the industry currently faces and has ever faced,” Matt Salois, chief economist at the Florida Department of Citrus, told Quartz. “We lose more trees in a given year than are actually being planted.”