FORT PIERCE, Fla. — The coronavirus is having an unexpected benefit on one area of Florida agriculture.
American consumers have been stocking their pantries and freezers amid the coronavirus crisis, and it seems one beverage is getting a much-needed boost in sales: orange juice.
According to marketing and research firm Nielsen, U.S. retail sales of orange juice jumped about 38 percent in March compared to the same period last year.
The Florida Department of Citrus reported a spike in demand for 100 percent orange juice in particular.
Orange juice is a go-to beverage for many people who are afraid of getting sick. That could be because people see it as a way to load up on vitamin C and boost their immunity.
“Over the last two to three weeks, we’ve seen a significant increase in retail sales,” said Natalie Sexton of Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Company in Fort Pierce. “We’ve actually seen 25 percent in sales in orange juice and grapefruit juice.”
Florida orange growers like Al’s Family Farms, established in 1977 in Fort Pierce, says the industry has felt the squeeze in recent years.
“We battled some diseases, but we made a lot of head way in crop this year,” said Jeff Schorner, the president of Al’s Family Farms.
Florida's citrus industry has been hit hard the last few decades by a variety of diseases, competition from overseas, changing dietary habits from the U.S. public and hurricanes.
Previously, orange juice sales had been declining steadily.
According to the USDA, orange juice consumption for Americans has fallen from about six gallons in 1998 to two and a half gallons in 2018.
But now, Al’s Family Farms reports a spike in online sales.
“Buyers are coming in now and buying gift cards that say, ’Enjoy some Florida sunshine and the vitamin C, love Mom and Dad.’ Parents are sending fruit to their kids to have their immune system as strong as possible right now. We appreciate it, but it’s sad it’s come to these circumstances,” said Schorner.
The Florida Department of Citrus says even though the circumstances surrounding the boost in sales is less than ideal, the demand gives growers the ability to keep their businesses afloat.
“The unforeseen, and significant recent increase in demand for 100% orange juice, comes at a time when many Americans are stocking their kitchens with foods and beverages that offer health and nutritional benefits. Orange juice has long been America’s favorite 100% fruit juice and the Florida Citrus industry is humbled by the number of consumers turning to us during this time of great uncertainty. While the circumstances are less than ideal, the increase in demand allows our multi-generational family growers to continue their mission of providing Americans with the Florida Orange Juice they love for the nourishment and enjoyment of their families," said Shannon Shepp, the executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus.
"Current projections suggest there will be a considerable increase in the short-run demand for orange juice. Members of the Florida Citrus industry are taking the necessary precautions as it relates to the health and well-being of themselves and their employees, following both state and federal guidelines, in order to continue to supply the U.S. with great tasting and nutritious Florida Orange Juice in the months to come," said Shepp.
Portions of this article courtesy of CNN Newsource