ELI5: How is Orange Juice economically viable when it takes me juicing about 10 oranges to have enough for a single glass of Orange Juice?
My father worked in various divisions of Tropicana for nearly 40 years, going from factory work and into corporate. He has more knowledge about the industry than nearly anyone in the world, though he retired several years ago.
Here’s what he has to say:
A standard box of oranges (as bought from a grower in Florida) weighs 90 lbs. That box when extracted by a processor will generate 5.5 to 6.0 gallons of orange juice. A typical box of oranges will supply 180 to 220 oranges … depending on the maturity and the variety of orange. That means that it takes about 34.8 oranges to produce a gallon of OJ.
Re cost …. the economics of “table fruit” that you buy to eat is different than the economics of field run processed fruit. Table run fruit is sorted for appearance, boxed, and sold at a premium. Some varieties of table fruit are also processed but mostly used as table fruit and sell at a significant premium to processed fruit. Valencia, Parson Brown, “Pineapple” oranges and Hamlins are the main varieties of oranges used in Florida to make OJ in processing plants. Extractor do not “grind up the fruit”. There are 2 types of extractors …. one “reems” the fruit like you do at home and the objective of the reem is to get all of the juice, pulp and inside of the orange without impacting the white interior of the fruit (albedo) which is very bitter. The peels and waste material are then sent to a feed mill where they are pressed to reduce liquid content and dried to make cattle feed. The pressed liquid is run through an evaporator to turn it into molasses and added back to the cattle feed to sweeten it up.
A comment in the string says “don’t let them tell you they don’t add water because they do”. They don’t add water to not from concentrate Orange Juice …. it is against the law and no reputable brand would do this. The cost of the oranges is so different because when you buy table fruit it is at most a bag …. processors sign contracts to buy whole groves of oranges …. sometimes buying millions of 90 lb boxes at a time. If you look in the commodity exchange … you will see “Orange Juice Concentrate Futures”. This is the price a processor is expecting to pay for a standard pound solid (about one gallon of single strength orange juice) in the future. That cost typically runs from $1.25 to $2.00 ….. for about 35 processing oranges. (See math at the top of this note)