Skip to navigationSkip to content
Reuters/Scott Audette
A frost is the least of big OJ’s problems.
TOUGH SELL

Not even a citrus-based superhero can save orange juice

By Max Nisen

In an effort to turn around a years-long freefall in the consumption of orange juice, the Florida Department of Citrus recently revamped its mascot (paywall). Instead of a friendly, orange shaped chap, the new Captain Citrus is a heavily muscled Marvel-designed superhero who joins the Avengers to beat up robots in a promotional comic book.

At this point, it might need actual superpowers to save orange juice. Not only is a record bad harvest, caused by “citrus greening,” pushing up prices and killing profits, sugar conscious Americans just don’t like orange juice as much. Sales hit their lowest levels in 15 years last year. Ongoing price jumps, carb consciousness,  the death of breakfast, and many other factors make a decline seem inevitable.

The pitch for orange juice continues to be nutrition focused. Captain Citrus goes to Florida schools to make exactly that case. But high levels of vitamin C and potassium don’t hold up that well against the fact that your average serving of orange juice has as much sugar as some candy bars and nearly as much as a Coke.

The branding is more musclebound, but the message is the same—and it’s one that consumers don’t buy anymore.

New product lines focus on making orange juice less juice-like. Both Coke and Pepsi have released low sugar, low calorie orange juices, and have made significant investments in markets with room to grow, like coconut water.