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Orange juice sales surge amid coronavirus crisis

Nationally, demand for 100-percent orange juice is nearly 10 percent higher than this time in 2019

At this stage, it seems more of a priority purchase than a panic one. Orange juice isn’t flying off shelves at the same clip as toilet paper, hand sanitizer and bread, but it’s not loitering on them either.

As many Americans scurry to fortify their immune systems amid the coronavirus outbreak, the beverage once synonymous with Florida is rebounding. Retail sales of 100-percent orange juice rose 9.8 percent nationally compared to the same recent four-week period (ending March 14) of 2019, according to Nielsen data provided by the Florida Department of Citrus.

At the state level, Fort Pierce-based Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Company reports a 24-percent increase in consumption of its orange juice product from March 9, according to vice-president of marketing Natalie Sexton. A spokesperson for Florida’s Natural declined to release recent sales figures.

Department of Citrus spokeswoman Shelley Rossetter said the surge reported by Natalie’s Orchid jibes with anecdotal sales-increase reports the agency has heard from other brands.

A sales increase in the next four-week national report is expected.

Related: RELATED: Tampa Bay businesses innovate to stay alive in the face of coronavirus

“Current projections suggest there will be a considerable increase in the short-run demand for orange juice,” Department of Citrus executive director Shannon Shepp said in a statement.

“Members of the Florida citrus industry are taking the necessary precautions as it relates to the health and well-being of themselves and their employees, following both state and federal guidelines, in order to continue to supply the U.S. with great-tasting and nutritious Florida orange juice in the months to come.”

The spike in sales offers at least a temporary boost to a state industry that has struggled mightily in recent years due in no small part to citrus greening, a disease spread by an insect called the Asian citrus psyllid that infects trees with bacteria.

“While the circumstances (for the resurgence) are less than ideal,” Shepp said, “the increase in demand allows our multi-generational family growers to continue their mission of providing Americans with the Florida orange juice they love for the nourishment and enjoyment of their families.”

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