Friday, April 23, 2021

The History of Orange Juice


Do you enjoy a sweet, tall, cold glass of orange juice with your breakfast? Most of us do. But have you ever wondered why this juice is associated with the first meal of the day?

How It Started 

Once upon a time, the concept of “orange juice,” let alone OJ at breakfast, was little known. Oranges were mostly something people peeled and ate, rather than juiced. 

In the 1900s, however, smart citrus growers realized how delicious freshly squeezed orange juice was and started advertising the idea to consumers. They even began marketing citrus juicers alongside oranges to make the process easier. Here's where the American love affair with orange juice began.

(As for the “with breakfast” part? That seems to have been a clever way to encourage people to drink OJ more regularly! Of course, the nutrition and flavor of orange juice also add a lot to breakfast.)


During World War II, the U.S. military got into the OJ business. We all need vitamin C for health, but the lemon juice crystals being served to the forces to provide this nutrient weren’t a big hit. Since oranges are a great source of vitamin C, the military "powers that be" came up with a way to can familiar and enjoyable orange juice. This drink wasn’t much like fresh juice (there's a reason we don’t see canned OJ today) but it was drinkable. Americans were now used to a new form of orange juice.

The Next Era: From Concentrate

In the late 1940s, there was a new innovation: orange juice from frozen concentrate. This became possible due to the rise of home refrigeration. Personally, I grew up in an era when this was the most popular way to drink the juice. I can remember making it for my mom as a child: you mixed a little cylinder of slushy-sweet OJ in a pitcher with water before breakfast. Orange juice concentrate is still around, but most people don’t buy it that way anymore.

And Today

Then, in the 1990s, food scientists figured out a way to make “not from concentrate” orange juice easily available year-round in cartons and jugs. You may remember this transition, because it was a big deal. Suddenly everyone had cartons of OJ in their fridges all the time. 

Although most of us prefer this type of orange juice to “from concentrate,” it’s worth noting that carton or jug orange juice is actually quite processed. The juice is pasteurized and stored with the oxygen removed, which reduces the flavor. To make it taste more “orangey,” companies then add a “flavor pack” (derived from oranges) back in before packaging. While this is technically still just orange juice, it does mean that the product has a noticeably different taste than fresh-squeezed.

The last “innovation” in orange juice to be mass-marketed? Bottled, freshly squeezed, unpasteurized juice. (Looks like we've come full circle.) 

This version of OJ tastes by far the closest to fresh-squeezed, because very little has been done to it. However, it's not always easy to find. It’s also expensive, and its shelf life is short...just a few days.  

Fresh...The Original

Over the years, depending on your age, you've likely tried and enjoyed some or maybe even all of these forms of orange juice. I’ve had every kind except canned myself. But for me, nothing beats the taste of fresh-squeezed. Frankly, it's not even close. 

It’s true that it takes a little bit of work to juice your own fresh, premium oranges. However, the results are definitely worth it. Having a great juicer will help. Check out our juicer reviews--and no matter what the source, enjoy your glass of sunshine.


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