A tall glass of orange juice is the very image of refreshment, packed with vitamins and radiating with sunshine freshness. It’s part of a balanced breakfast, after all. But America’s classic morning drink is in trouble: sales of commercial orange juice are down to their lowest levels in the last 15 seasons, according to the WSJ and the Florida Department of Citrus. The industry is facing growing competition from exotic fruit and energy drinks while its “all-natural” claims are being called into serious question.
Orange juice’s fresh and healthy reputation lies in the balance today, but it was once America’s healing elixir around which an entire industry staked its hopes. Orange juice’s fabled health benefits were promoted by nutritionists, fruit producers, marketers, and the government, who credited orange juice with curing everything from scurvy to listlessness, and even a rare blood condition called acidosis. But orange juice did not always have a place at the American breakfast table, mostly because for years it was either too expensive, or just didn’t taste very good.
Here’s a taste experiment for the adventurous and historically inclined drinker: Boil some orange juice, place it in a can, and leave it on a shelf for several weeks. This is what most people knew as orange juice in the 1920’s. In lieu of pricey fresh-squeezed, average Americans enjoyed what the latest preservation technology offered: canned juice, which was essentially boiled to death. Unsurprisingly, its flavor was…somewhat lacking.