Benefits of Increasing Citrus Hybrids in Orange Juice

Josh McGill Orange Juice

Allowing citrus hybrids with certain criteria in orange juice (OJ) was one of several issues addressed in a recent workshop about potential changes to OJ’s standard of identity. Peter Chaires, executive director of the New Varieties Development and Management Corp., discussed benefits of increasing the hybrid allowance in OJ.

citrus hybrids
A study showed consumers preferred orange juice blended with juice from Sugar Belle mandarin, a hybrid of Sweet Clementine and Minneola varieties.

Chaires presented a consumer study of juices conducted by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher Yu Wang. That study used samples of 100% Sugar Belle mandarin, 100% Hamlin or Valencia orange, 90% Hamlin or Valencia and 10% Sugar Belle, 50% Hamlin or Valencia and 50% Sugar Belle, and some samples of 100% commercial OJ.

Consumers preferred the juice blended with Sugar Belle. The study showed that Sugar Belle improved appearance, flavor and overall liking of Hamlin. Sugar Belle increased sweetness and lowered sourness and bitterness of both Valencia and Hamlin juices, at both 50/50 and 90/10 blends. Additionally, there were quite a number of people willing to pay additional for a blended product.

Chaires stated that current standards limit the percentage of reticulata (mandarin orange) to 10% in OJ. Increasing the allowance of reticulata from 10% to 15% has potential benefits as it creates another supply source for domestic OJ, Chaires said. Additionally, processors have more blending options, consumers can benefit from a high-quality product, and the increased percentage can accommodate new HLB-tolerant hybrids.

In May 2022, the Florida Citrus Processors Association (FCPA) asked the Florida Citrus Mutual (FCM) board to consider supporting a citizen’s petition to amend the pasteurized OJ standards of identity. In addition to providing the ability to allow citrus hybrids to be used in OJ, the petition would have lowered the Brix level of not-from-concentrate OJ from 10.5 to 10.0 and corrected the nomenclature for the sweet orange in the OJ standard. FCM’s board in 2022 voted that the petition be filed with only the proposed lowering of the Brix level.

Kristen Carlson, director of FCPA, said during the workshop that the petition regarding citrus hybrids and correcting the nomenclature for the sweet orange can be merged with the Brix petition. The Brix petition has already been filed with the federal Food and Drug Administration. Carlson said she believes this process may take six to 10 years. If the Florida citrus industry later feels that the changes are no longer needed, the petitions can be withdrawn, she said.

Source: Florida Department of Citrus

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