GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Consumers are more likely to buy orange juice if they think the fruit comes from Florida, new University of Florida research shows. In fact, top reasons consumers purchase orange juice include taste, health benefits and origin of the fruit.
Grocery shoppers say they want orange juice (OJ) from Florida. Sometimes, those purchases boil down to branding.
According to the Florida Department of Citrus, while 80% of OJ consumers who responded to a 2021 survey think oranges in their juice came from Florida, only 45% of orange juice in the market was from Florida that year. This presents a challenge to the industry because consumers perceive Florida orange juice as a premium product at a time when supplies are low, said Yan Heng, a UF/IFAS assistant research scientist in food and resource economics.
As it turns out, nearly half of the respondents in a new survey led by Heng say they’re more willing to pay for orange juice if it comes from Florida. The new UF/IFAS research focuses on consumers’ willingness to pay for orange juice. For example, what attributes do they want, and what are they willing to pay for those traits?
To reach the findings, Heng coordinated a national online poll of 1,495 primary household grocery shoppers in July 2020. Heng and two colleagues published their data in a new UF/IFAS Extension document.
Economists found that any image of Florida — or verbiage that included the word “Florida” — makes oranges from the Sunshine State the most preferred juice among buyers. Mostly, they perceive juice from Florida to have better taste and quality. Consumers also want to support domestic farmers.
Consumers prefer orange juice from Florida because the state has a long history of citrus production. But many people do not know that some of the orange juice on the market is not 100% from Florida citrus, Heng said.
The leading sources for orange juice that is not from concentrate — which is where most of Florida’s processed orange crop is utilized – are Florida, Brazil, Mexico and other domestic sources, said Marisa Zansler, director of economic and market research for the Florida Department of Citrus.
Heng thinks it’s important that consumers know whether they’re buying orange juice made from 100% Florida oranges or elsewhere.
Stores and marketers may benefit more by maintaining the “Florida image” that consumers often associate with orange juice.
“We already have some additional information, like labels, on juice containers to tell consumers the origin of the product,” Heng said. “I think we just need to emphasize that when we communicate with consumers.”
The new data on Florida orange juice comes as good news for Florida citrus growers, who are looking for rays of hope amid the devastation of citrus greening. The disease has reduced citrus production by millions of boxes annually since it was discovered in Florida in 2005.
Even in the face of citrus greening disease, Florida leads the nation in orange juice production. But the amount of juice consumed is going down.
While waiting for the citrus industry to recover from greening and produce more juice, the Florida Department of Citrus and major companies are trying to maintain or increase demand for orange juice, Heng said. Even though there’s less Florida-grown orange juice, as the UF/IFAS survey shows, consumers still appreciate Florida orange juice.
“For citrus growers, consumers have a strong preference for Florida orange juice, and it definitely brings additional value to Florida orange juice,” she said.
–Brad Buck, UF/IFAS