Yikes! Inflation pushes orange juice to its highest price ever.

Inflation has pushed up the cost of both oranges and orange juice - Photo by ConsumerAffairs

Consumers should prepare for alternatives including orange juice being replaced by orange nectar

If you haven’t bought any orange juice lately, now certainly isn’t the time. As predicted, the price of OJ has gone up significantly.

In fact, it's at an all-time high, double what it was a year ago – up to $4.25 for a 12-oz. can of frozen juice – and five times the price it was selling at five years ago. 

This increase is largely due to supply constraints and extreme weather conditions in Brazil, the world's largest producer and exporter of orange juice. Brazil's orange harvest is expected to be one of the worst in over three decades due to excessive heat and citrus greening disease.

Even Florida – once the OJ capital of the world – has fallen on hard times. Because of the hurricanes and its own version of citrus greening disease, the Sunshine State’s orange production has plummeted 92% since the 2003-04 growing season.

It goes without saying that this situation puts OJ lovers in a tight squeeze. Pat Penfield, Professor of Supply Chain Practice at Syracuse University, told ConsumerAffairs that other juices could also face similar issues.

“Apple and grape juice prices have also increased, but as these are grown in different regions there are other factors involved in the price increase,” he said. 

Are there workarounds?

Juice lovers are pretty devoted consumers, but this shortage, coupled with inflation, might throw us all for a loop.

Robert Khachatryan, the CEO and founder of Freight Right Global Logistics, suggests however that there are ways two can play this game.

“Consumers can look for alternative beverages to manage costs,” he suggests. “Options like water, herbal teas, and other non-fruit-based drinks can be more budget-friendly. Additionally, buying frozen concentrate or powdered juice mixes might offer cost savings compared to fresh or bottled juice.”

Khachatryan also recommends that to mitigate the impact of juice shortages and price hikes, you can:

  • Buy in bulk: “Purchasing larger quantities of juice when prices are lower can provide savings over time,” he noted. One way to do that, ConsumerAffairs found, is to buy your OJ through a restaurant supply store. For example, we found Ocean Spray Orange Juice 60 fl. oz. - 8/Case for $33.99, or $0.07/Fluid Ounce, which is .015 (a penny and a half) cheaper per ounce than Kroger’s store brand.

  • Seasonal buying: “Focus on seasonal fruits and juices that are more plentiful and less expensive.”

  • Local produce: “Support local farmers and producers who may have more stable supplies and potentially lower prices.”

Real or 'kinda like' OJ?

There may be one interesting twist coming out of this shortage that we hadn’t considered. Penfield says that we could see orange juice producers blending different citrus fruits together to meet orange juice demand. 

“Orange juice producers can chemically alter the flavor of their citrus product to taste like the orange juice we have come to know in the past,” he said. “Because of the decrease in oranges, juice producers may be only able to produce citrus juice versus pure orange juice in the future.”

One example of an orange juice producer that has chemically altered the flavor of its citrus product to taste like orange juice is Granini. Consumer advocates have criticized Granini for replacing its orange juice with orange nectar, which contains only half the fruit content of the original juice.

This change was made due to an extreme shortage and increased price of orange juice concentrate. Despite the alteration, the product was not clearly marked, leading to consumer confusion.

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