When’s the last time you bought one of those frosty cans of frozen orange-juice concentrate? When’s the last time you saw somebody buy one? When’s the last time you even saw somebody take one out of the grocery-store freezer and consider buying it?
The Wall Street Journal reports from the orange-juice futures market and the citrus groves of Florida, where things are looking pretty bleak. The orange harvest is projected to be the smallest in 52 years, the paper reports, and there’s still hurricane season to get through. “You’re witnessing gut-wrenching decisions where multigenerational family citrus growers have reached a point where their risk tolerance isn’t there to continue,” said Florida Agriculture Department and Consumer Services commissioner Adam Putnam.
It’s not simply a matter of a really bad year, either—the popularity of juice generally has declined: “Americans drank less orange juice in 2015 than in any year since Nielsen began collecting data in 2002, as more exotic beverages like tropical smoothies and energy drinks take market share and fewer Americans sit down for breakfast,” the Journal explains.
But times are apparently toughest if you’re associated with the frozen concentrated orange juice business.
Not-for-concentrate orange juice surpassed the concentrated orange-juice market in the 1980s. Now, the 1.4 million gallons of frozen concentrate that Americans drink each month pales in comparison to the 19.1 million gallons of fresh juice consumed each month, Nielsen said.
Louis Dreyfus Co. is scaling back the one citrus facility in Florida that is devoted entirely to concentrated orange juice. The commodities giant is laying off 59 of the plant’s 94 workers as its sells the operation that packs frozen concentrated orange juice into cans for retail.
The time when anything out of a can seemed wondrously futuristic has long since passed, in favor of anything labeled “natural” or “wholesome” (no matter how dubious that labeling’s reliability). And so it’s not surprising to find frozen orange-juice concentrate fallen out of favor.
But then again, let’s not discount the possibility that the reclaimed-wood-and-artisanal-food craze will die off, to be supplanted by a wave of enthusiasm for ‘80s nostalgia that encompasses $17 cocktails made out of, yes, pure frozen concentrated orange juice, straight out of the can.