Some people prefer orange juice on their cereal instead of milk – but will a promotion by Tropicana to draw attention to the pairing be a splash in the bowl or a new go-to breakfast dish?
That may depend on the palate. Megi Burcl tried it growing up and in college and might try it again.
“I’ve definitely had it before,” said Burci of Winter Haven.
Originally from the Washington, D.C. area, she said, “It was fairly common when I was a kid in the 80s and 90s and not unheard of at all when I was in college in the 00s.”
Adventurous eaters also tried the combination this week as part of Wednesday’s National Orange Juice Day promotional giveaway of boxes of orange juice-ready Tropicana Crunch cereal.
The gastronomical experiment all started with a recent survey of consumer preferences.
According to Tropicana, “15 million Americans have tried it – which is equivalent to the total population of New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago combined.”
With the survey results, the orange juice company decided to package Tropicana Crunch, the first-ever breakfast cereal created to pair with Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice, a release said.
Those willing to try it had a brief opportunity to get their hands on a free box on Wednesday and then were encouraged to post their likes and dislikes about the flavorful experience online at TikTok and Instagram.
A limited supply of the cereal is being shipped to consumers across the country for consumer reactions, so it is too early to tell whether the combination will catch on.
The Tropicana survey also found that millions more Americans are willing to try orange juice on their cereal and that “half of the adults who poured OJ over their cereal did so because they thought it … would taste good,” Tropicana said.
Perhaps the others ran out of milk.
“Orange juice on cereal. Some call it weird. Some call it breakfast. We . . . didn’t even know it was a thing,” Tropicana’s website said. “But turns out, there are totally normal people amongst us juicing up their cereal bowls.”
Tropicana has made waves with citrus product campaigns before. Last fall, they produced an orange juice-compatible toothpaste; because the minty fresh taste of toothpaste does not pair well with juice.
Tropicana Crunch, is made with honey almond clusters that are “crispy and ready to get citrusy,” Tropicana said.
The cereal is granola-based so it does not get soggy as quickly with regular cereal flakes due to the acidity in orange juice, they said. The taste attribute of the honey almond flavor helps balance the tartness of orange juice making it a great palette pairing.
“Through taste R&D we tried multiple flavors, including berry and fruity flavored cereal and cinnamon and sugar-forward flavored cereals as well as textures,” Tropicana said. “We found this one to be such a fun pairing and kept Tropicana Pure Premium OJ tasting like Tropicana Pure Premium OJ.”
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Turns out Tropicana might be onto something, according to a professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Florida’s Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences.
“There probably are a lot of people in the field that would tell you absolutely that there are rules about hedonic pairings,” said professor Linda Bartoshuk. “Frankly, I don’t think so. Given what we know about acquiring palatability; it’s experience. You try it, you like it.”
In her studies of tastes vs. flavors, she explained tastes are sweet, sour, salty and bitter.
But flavors are acquired by the experience of consuming different foods from roast beef and chocolate to vanilla. To develop taste preferences, the nose also has to smell the food.
Through evolution, the brain has become hardwired for distinguishing tastes in order to survive.
For example, “You’ve got to have glucose for your brain to work, you’ve got to have salt for muscles and nerves to work. You have to avoid bitters or you will get poisoned, you have to avoid strong acids or you will burn your tissue.”
The body also knows it needs calories contained in foods such as cereals, which can be sweet and orange juice can further enhance the sweetness, she said.
“Putting orange juice on cereal makes a lot of sense to me, you want liquid because it breaks down the harshness of some of the crisper elements of the cereal,” Bartoshuk said.
“So I am not surprised people try this,” she said. “And once they try it, the brain perceives this combination and it learns to like it because what comes with it, sweet taste and calories.”
In Florida, there are about 569,000 acres of citrus groves producing mostly oranges for juice and more than 74 million citrus trees. Polk County has remained the top citrus producing county statewide.
In Bartow, Citrus Mutual executive vice president and CEO, Matt Joyner, is not counting on the Tropicana promotion to have a huge impact on citrus sales of Florida grown oranges but he was both excited and amused by the promotion.
“I think it clearly had its desired effect,” he said. “It created a buzz around our favorite juice. I’m just sore I couldn’t score a box,” he said chuckling.
“It got a lot of good publicity for orange juice and that’s exciting,” said Joyner, who admitted he had tried juice on cereal as a child but that did not go so well.
He said he was not qualified to opine on how well the promotion might get consumers to buy more juice for their cereal.
Thor Harris, CEO of Percepture, a New York City-based advertising agency, called the Tropicana Crunch a “terrific marketing campaign, similar to what IHOP did when it ‘became’ IHOB.”
The move positioned IHOP as an eatery for dinner, with burgers and other dinner items as well as breakfast and brunch items.
“I see this as a way for the juice brand to remind consumers that it is more than just a breakfast beverage,” Harris said. “There is potentially another way to look at this though.”
“There is a continuing migration away from traditional milk to alternative milks for many uses, including in breakfast cereals,” he added. “The value propositions here include providing a lactose-free option, offering a more protein-rich alternative, or delivering a similar but better-textured option.”
Tropicana Products, Inc., a division of PepsiCo, Inc., is a leading producer and marketer of branded fruit juices.
Paul Nutcher covers business and industry for The Ledger. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.