Sales of Florida citrus and juice jumped during the COVID-19 pandemic in March, The Ledger newspaper in Lakeland reported.
The newspaper cited a Nielsen report that not-from-concentrate OJ sales climbed 28 percent for the 4-week period ending March 21.
The surge followed approximately two decades of OJ sales declines. Consumers appear to focus on OJ’s heavy vitamin C content in the face of the pandemic, the article stated.
Grapefruit juice and fresh citrus sales have also climbed during the past month.
The article quoted Florida citrus organization representatives who agreed that the OJ sales surge was fueled in part by consumer concerns with healthy foods in the face of COVID-19. Other organizations and citrus economists also agreed that while retail sales of OJ increased because of stay-at-home orders, food-service sales of juice have been negatively impacted.
Two leading Florida citrus economists told the Ledger that the decline in food-service sales has fueled higher OJ retail sales.
“You’re going to see the retail bump mitigated by the decline in sales to food service,” Dan Gunter, an economist and former Florida Department of Citrus (FDOC) executive director, said. “I’ll bet at the end of the day it will be a wash — at best a wash.”
Tom Spreen, a University of Florida professor emeritus in the Food and Resource Economics Department and senior economic consultant in the Economic and Market Research Department of the FDOC, agreed food-service sales have offset OJ’s retail performance, but he couldn’t say whether total sales would ultimately increase for the season.
Fresh citrus industry representatives in Florida, including George Hamner, president of Indian River Exchange Packers, and Peter Chaires, the head of Florida Citrus Packers and the Citrus Administrative Committee, also told The Ledger that fresh fruit sales were boosted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The article reported mixed opinions about whether consumers’ increased awareness of citrus’ health benefits will last beyond the pandemic.
Read the full article from the The Ledger here.
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