Last Friday on CBC television’s investigative show Marketplace, the main story concerned the marketing of my favourite morning beverage, orange juice. The thrust was twofold: how do popular brands compare to freshly squeezed in taste, and what is done to preserve o.j. sold in cartons and plastic bottles (and to what extent are consumers aware).
The blind taste test, apparently involving families from the greater Toronto area, offered three brands: Tropicana and Simply Orange (the most popular in Canada and the U.S.) plus Canadian brand Oasis. These ‘competed’ with a freshly squeezed version of juice.
The initial revelation concerned the issue of oranges picked and processed in the southern U.S. not actually reaching Canadian customers until up to a year later. How to keep that orange sensory appeal, since the fresh taste dissipates over time in the large storage containers used by the juice producers? The report advised that a chemical additive is used to recreate the orangearama experience. This is probably understandable in a visceral way, but still a little hard for juice aficionados overtly to hear and swallow.
Given the implication of this on distribution, it’s understandably unlikely in a taste test that packaged o.j. would win against freshly squeezed. Indeed, with the family panel, the latter was rated best, except for the preference of some for less pulp. Among the retail brands, to my surprise the Canadian version was rated more highly than the two more famous and known American brands. Personally, I’ve enjoyed all three, although I admit to slightly preferring the U.S. varieties.
The red flag raised in this report concerns the minimal understanding of consumers with respect to the use of additives to recreate a natural seeming orange flavour in juice. I just finished this morning a container of Simply Orange brand; on its label it identifies itself as 100% pure and natural, with no added water, sugar, or preservatives. Apparently there is a significant language difference between ‘preservative’ and ‘additive’ insofar as the retail marketing of orange juice.
As much as I like the stuff, I’m not sure I want to drink to that.