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Roly-poly no more, muscled Captain Citrus unveiled to boost OJ sales

In a digital comic book, the new Captain Citrus appears alongside Marvel heroes Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and Black Widow. [Florida Department of Citrus]
In a digital comic book, the new Captain Citrus appears alongside Marvel heroes Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and Black Widow. [Florida Department of Citrus]
Published Sep. 17, 2014

Roly-poly Captain Citrus has been working out at the gym. With the likes of Iron Man and Captain America.

The Florida Department of Citrus, together with Disney-owned Marvel Custom Solutions, unveiled a $1 million redesign of a now buff Captain Citrus on Tuesday at Heroes' Haven Comics in Tampa.

"Transformed from a life-sized orange into a young man mysteriously powered by the sun, the newly imagined Captain Citrus is a sculpted hero clad in a muscle-skimming citrus-hued suit," says the citrus industry of its new hero.

The captain's mission: to appeal to today's youthful obsession with superheroes like the Marvel Comics Avengers and along the way help boost the flagging sales of orange juice.

It may prove a herculean task. The OJ industry faces a triple threat — namely citrus greening disease, shrinking acres devoted to citrus groves and growing competition in flavored, less sugary juice drinks that has zapped the traditional dominance of OJ at the breakfast table.

U.S. orange juice sales fell to the lowest level on record, industry data reported last month. And the Florida Department of Citrus seems busy in recent months countering claims, first in the documentary film Fed Up and in a more recent NPR report, that sugar content in orange juice is contributing to America's obesity woes.

That's one reason the chubby Captain Citrus first unveiled in 2011 was replaced this week with a muscle-bound successor.

"Raising awareness of the amazing nutritional benefits of Florida citrus, especially among families, is a priority," said Doug Ackerman, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus. "With a well-established audience and a proven track record of success, Marvel is the perfect partner to help make that happen on a global level."

The state Citrus Department's partnership with Marvel includes a print comic book distributed free to one million children in schools across the country this fall. An educational teacher's guide, providing a lesson plan aligned with best practices teaching guidelines, will accompany them.

Two additional digital chapters of the Captain Citrus comic book story will be released at captaincitrus.com.

Contact Robert Trigaux at rtrigaux@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8405. Follow @venturetampabay.

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