Book Excerpt


What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice

March 12, 2010

From Chapter 13: “Fabricating Fresh”

Traditionally the flavor of processed orange juice depended only on the oranges squeezed. Now the flavor is sourced from all parts of oranges everywhere. Many consumers would be shocked and disappointed to learn that most processed orange juice, a product still widely perceived to be the definition of purity, would be undrinkable without an ingredient referred to within the industry as “the flavor pack.”

The fact that the modern orange juice flavor pack has retained almost complete anonymity is a symptom of orange juice standards of identity that were literally “fixed” in the 1960s. Significant advances in orange flavor manufacture have rendered the original regulations, upon which the current rules are based, out of date.

The growing complexity of the orange juice flavor pack and the ambiguity surrounding its regulation highlight a fundamental problem with the standard of identity. Its content rather than its packaging-focused approach is ill-suited to the regulation of a processing sector that has become sophisticated enough to skirt the FDA’s radar.

During the 1961 [FDA orange juice standard of identity] hearings, orange juice processors surprised the FDA with testimony that they had been experimenting with orange essence since the 1950s. After the hearings, James Redd became known as the man who turned orange flavor extraction into a highly lucrative commercial enterprise. Redd, who also flew to Brazil after the Florida freeze of 1962 to lend his expertise to Brazil’s growing juice-processing industry, started Intercit, the first company in Florida devoted to recovering orange essence for resale to juice processors. Firmenich eventually bought Intercit, which is now home to the international flavor and fragrance company’s Citrus Center in Safety Harbor. Renamed, and the essence recovery systems that Redd engineered for Intercit updated, the Citrus Center retains the same purpose: to capture the essence of orange juice.

The deal that now almost every orange juice processor makes to create a decent-tasting processed juice involves an intricate give and take between orange juice processor and flavor manufacturer, usually an outside flavor and fragrance house operator. Typically, the orange oils and essences that juice concentrators collect during evaporation are sold to flavor manufacturers, who then reconfigure these by-products and sell them back to juice companies. The flavor house that purchases this material may use some of it for fabricating fragrances and flavors for other products, and the rest is broken down and reconfigured into “flavor packs” for reintroduction into orange juice. Renée Goodrich of the Citrus Research and Education Center says that “it’s only been fairly recently that we’ve had the good equipment to take out excess peel oil that lets us get down enough to then add back the flavor packages.”

While most brands rely on flavor packs to restore to their product the aroma of freshly squeezed juice that is destroyed during processing, others use the flavor pack to imitate the best imitations. Former flavor house employee Daniel King, who moved on to become director of technical services at the Florida Citrus Processors Association, recalls customers asking for blends that, when reintroduced into their juice, would mimic the taste of a specific brand.

Is your juice freshly squeezed?

Minute Maid has a reputation for having an especially distinct flavor. Its “from concentrate” orange juice, says a former agricultural technology expert at Tropicana, is known for the “flowery flavor package that’s floating on top.” His colleague at the time, a Tropicana director, is more specific: “If you drink Minute Maid, it has and always has had a unique candy-type flavor to it. The oranges as they come out of the grove aren’t always like that. But obviously the orange has that flavor, and that’s one that is highlighted in whatever they’re adding to their juice. Maybe people who like Minute Maid like it for that reason.”

Not all orange juice companies can afford distinctive flavor packs. King says the blends of different companies vary in their degree of sophistication: the “more specialized the flavor package is . . . the more expensive components one blends into it . . . the more complexity the cost.” But however modest the investment, it appears to be worth it. Industry consultant Allen Morris has tried undoctored concentrate: “If you taste the bulk concentrate that hasn’t had the essence added back, it just tastes like sugar.”

Tropicana’s former agricultural technology expert offers a parallel perspective, particularly for frozen concentrate and the reconstituted cartons of orange juice that Minute Maid makes from it: “Once you strip all your volatiles out . . . what have you got? Brix (orange sugar solids) and acid. You cut it back and add a flavor pack until you’ve got orange juice.”

During the 1961 hearings, juice processors vigorously denied suggestions that their interest in essence derived from its capacity for deception. They did not want to give the FDA or consumer representatives the impression that they were using essence to cover poor-quality juice. However, the contemporary flavorist is not shy to admit that the modern flavor pack serves, in the words of the Firmenich flavorist, “a protective or masking role.”

The high-tech concoctions of varying fractions of orange essence and oil soften the effects that processed orange juice suffers at the hands of processors who, the flavorist says, like to “crank up” the heat to get rid of dangerous bacteria and increase shelf stability. Goodrich does not think the smaller-scale premium juices made by companies such as Odwalla contain flavor packs — more evidence that they act as a Band-Aid for processors who are rough with their oranges.

There are 16 comments on this item
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1. by sanurajamila on Mar 12, 2010 at 8:43 AM PST

When I brought orange juice in Denmark, It was sold in smaller containers and expensive. My shopping habit is to buy enough Orange juice to last a week. It was quickly learned why they’re sold in smaller quantities. Within two to three days, the juice became sour. It was the one of many lessons I learned from Denmark about the quality of our food industry. I couldn’t figure out why American Orange Juice can last for a few weeks, despite the packaging claiming to be being fresh and 100% natural. Now, I know why.

2. by Vladimir on Mar 15, 2010 at 6:03 PM PDT

With so many lying companies these days it’s just better to buy some oranges, clean them, and blend them in the blender and make an orange shake or a fruit shake.

3. by Laura Parisi on Mar 15, 2010 at 7:19 PM PDT

The whole “flavor pack” concept is really gross. I’m sure they do that for milk, too, and anything else that needs to be processed/pasteurized to death.

Best orange juice I’ve ever had: spring break, senior year of college, my girlfriends and I drove down to Phoenix to stay with the parents of one of our friends. They had three orange trees and one grapefruit tree in their yard. I spent the entire week making gallons and gallons of juice. It was DELICIOUS. I’m pretty sure OJ and grapefruit juice will never taste as good again.

4. by zegg on Mar 16, 2010 at 8:26 AM PDT

Are flavor packs only used in orange juice made from concentrate, or also in “not from concentrate” juice?

5. by anonymous on Mar 17, 2010 at 4:20 PM PDT

I know tropicana was mentioned in this excert talking about minute maid, but I was unsure if they partake in the addition of the flavor pack to their juice as well. I’ve always been a fan and it would make me very sad if they weren’t what I thought they were.

6. by anonymous on Mar 17, 2010 at 6:35 PM PDT

The worst thing about it is how the FDA doesn’t require it to be listed on the label as an ingredient. The pet food industry is the worst about that - nothing has to be listed that the company didn’t add themselves, so if an ingredient comes in pre-preserved with a chemical preservative, it doesn’t have to be listed as they didn’t add it themselves. Makes me think this is happening with human foods as well.

7. by Lissa on Mar 18, 2010 at 5:03 PM PDT

I have the same question as zegg. I’d like to know, yet I don’t want to spend 30 bucks and read 247 pages about the orange juice industry, in the event the answer is in the book.

8. by anonymous on Mar 20, 2010 at 4:59 PM PDT

best to squeeze one’s own. even better, peel oranges and put them through the juicer - unbeatable.
the commercial orange juice here in New Zealand is undrinkable - at the same time very expensive. I’m in immigrant but people here don’t know any better they think the sour chemical tasting brew sold here is oj...

9. by anonymous on Mar 31, 2010 at 5:43 AM PDT

Another benefit of natural raw orange juice is that it has anti-inflammatory properties. Processed juice is actually slightly inflammatory!

10. by anonymous on Oct 29, 2010 at 1:03 PM PDT

This is no surprise. Nothing in this world is what it seems.
People honestly dont know what real orange juice tastes like. Not even me, who always buys oranges ans squeezes them to get the juice out since the oranges themselves have been grown with chemicals and pesticides.
It’s like nothing is real these days. Everything is choc full of chemicals.
All because of greedy company people who just want money.

11. by anonymous on Dec 16, 2011 at 5:08 PM PST

@Laura Parisi When you mentioned milk, it made me think of skim milk. After it is processed, it is a teal/sky blue and they have to add powdered skim milk to it to return it to the white color...

12. by Squeezed on Dec 17, 2011 at 2:54 PM PST

It seems to me that the Republican controlled congress, back in 2003, passed a law that blocked corporations from proper labeling the ingediants in their foods. We can’t even choose to buy non-GMO food because the Republican controlled congrees would rather their large campaign donors profitted off their lies of ommission and the lowered health of American citizens

13. by anonymous on Jan 26, 2012 at 11:52 AM PST

Zegg and Lissa: This is specifically for “not from Concentrate” types of orange juice. The only way they can keep that stuff around from season to season not in concentrated form is to take out the oxygen, which removes all the flavor. Then they need to add it back in to sell it.

14. by anonymous on Feb 16, 2012 at 6:42 PM PST

@Anonymous - October 29, 2010

i’m sure a part of it has to do with “greedy company people” for sure, but realistically, this has to be the approach to feed millions upon millions of people. resources are tight in this world, so you have to make every drop count. unfortunately, it’s potentially at our expense. i say “potentially” because like most processed foods and/or GMO’s, there’s insufficient data about the long term effects these foods have on our health. at the very least, as consumers (and in a free economy), we should always have complete transparency when it comes to how a product is made. personally, if i can avoid engineered foods i try but it’s getting harder and harder to find all natural foods.

15. by Gary on Aug 24, 2012 at 6:29 PM PDT

I’m reading the book now. I feel as though I may be one of the last buyers of frozen concentrate - but then again I grew up in Winter Haven FL with my father working as a businessman for Minute Maid & then Continental Can, & Texsun. I prefer squeezing my juice fresh & find the experience spiritual. Posting this link to my Facebook page - I felt I should add to the discussion here. I’m grateful for Alissa’s book.

16. by Eric on Oct 16, 2012 at 11:22 AM PDT

I called the manufacturer (Florida’s Natural Growers, a division of Citrus World, Inc., a growers’ cooperative based in Lake Wales, Florida) using the toll-free number on the package, and I was told (and they are sending me a letter from the company vice president to verify) that in their “Florida’s Natural Premium – Not from Concentrate” brand orange juice, they use no flavor packs, just pure juice squeezed from 100% Florida oranges, pasteurized and packaged.

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