When we think of orange juice, we don’t picture large steel containers of tasteless fruit (sitting for a year). We think of oranges — they’re good for you. They’re healthy and taste yummy and sweet. Hate to break it to you, but that “premium orange juice” you buy in the grocery store, it’s not what you really think!
Have you given any thought to why orange juice from a particular company always tastes the same? If you think about, if you went out to the orange grove, picked some oranges and juiced them, the juice of different batches would taste different. Each batch would have its own unique flavor, depending on the time of year, the ripeness of the orange, the weather, and many other factors. Right?
It would all taste sweet and orangey, but there would be a variation in the color of the orange juice and flavor of each freshly squeezed batch.
It’s interesting that commercial orange juice is the opposite of this. The top brands of OJ in our grocery stores are extremely consistent from batch to batch. Each of the top brands of orange juice have a signature flavor: a specific orangey smell, color and taste. The question is, how do they do this, and why?
Flavor should not be recreated
Heavily processed foods have a formula, which produces a consistent product with a consistent taste. Makes sense — you wouldn’t want your hot dog to taste wildly different each time you eat one, or your salad dressing to be tart sometimes and sweet at other times. Consumers have an expectation of taste.
Commercial orange juice producers achieve this same consistency with a secret formula called “flavor packets.” Flavor packets give each orange juice brand a signature flavor.
Experts, like those from the perfume industry, develop these designer taste packets for orange juice companies. These experts are good at making things taste, smell and look how we want them to. But is this natural? No. Then why does it say “natural” on our OJ cartons?
Companies produce OJ all year long
Oranges are a seasonal fruit that grow in bushels. Oranges will ripen all at once. Companies need to process these large batches of oranges quickly. First they turn the oranges into juice, pasteurize the juice, then store it in huge metal vats.
The oxygen is sucked out of these orange juice vats — so it doesn’t spoil during storage. Companies store this “deoxygenated juice” for up to a year. This ensures a constant supply of “premium orange juice.”
The problem occurs when you take out the oxygen, because this takes out the flavor. So companies need to “put back in” the taste and orangey smell before they can sell the juice.
This is where the flavor packets come in. There are designer orange juice flavors. Companies may produce different orange juices for different places in the world. For example, Americans might enjoy a sweeter citrusy smell, whereas Europeans prefer a tart, more earthy smell. Crazy right?
This is how commercial orange juice is made
When we discovered this information, we wondered, “How come this isn’t on the packaging?” If all this “processing” is happening to our OJ, why don’t we know about? The answer is, companies are clever.
Our food processing laws are such that if something is originally made from an orange, even if it has gone through many steps of processing, a company doesn’t have to specify those steps on the package. The juice in the vats, and the flavor packet that is added, are both originally derived from oranges — so no information is needed on OJ cartons. Not good, eh?
What to do
Don’t buy processed premium orange juice! Flavor packs are added to the juice to make it all taste the same. (We know we aren’t going to buy it from the store anymore. What about you?)
What are your options? You can grow your own oranges (okay, we know that’s a little involved). You can get organic oranges and squeeze them yourself. Here is a great recipe to try:
If you have a local farmer’s market, you can purchase freshly squeezed local organic juice. Natural health-food stores and organic “juice” stores can make you a glass while you wait. O-range you glad to have all these options? Get your tall glass of organic freshly squeezed OJ today.
Nikki Walsh is a freelance writer and mom of two kids living in Southern California. She holds an MBA in marketing from University of California, Irvine and a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from UCSD. She has been practicing Kelee meditation for 19 years. When she is not writing she can be found out and about having fun with her kids.