Readers, you're about to read why I'll never buy another container of Tropicana Pure Premium Orange Juice--ever again.
How is it possible that every carton you've ever had of Tropicana Pure Premium--every single carton--tastes exactly the same?
The "Never From Concentrate" Tropicana OJ you drank last week tastes the same as the stuff you had last summer. Even more weirdly, it tastes exactly the same as the cartons you bought a year ago. And the year before that.
Seriously, if this is supposed to be real juice, then how is that possible?
It's possible because that delicious and impossibly uniform Tropicana taste is entirely manufactured.
Tropicana's process involves juicing oranges, pasteurizing the juice, and then "de-aerating" the juice--a fancy word for storing the juice in an environment that's stripped of oxygen. Juice that's been processed in this way can then be stored for extremely long periods of time without spoiling. And that enables Tropicana to store juice inventory for months--thereby selling you "fresh juice" when oranges aren't remotely in season.
The thing is, this industrialized process also produces juice that basically tastes like nothing. Which brings us to the worst part of all: Tropicana then adds back flavoring and fragrance agents to their juice, using so-called "flavor packs" that are engineered to replicate a specific and consistent scent and taste. And because these flavoring and fragrance additives are technically made from oranges, Tropicana can still claim their juice is all-natural and never from concentrate.
That's why every single carton of orange juice tastes--freakishly--exactly the same. It has been manufactured that way.
When I first began to learn about the flavoring, scenting and storage processes behind the market's best-selling orange juice, I quite simply couldn't believe it. Or maybe, after too many years of habitually paying a huge price premium to buy a skillfully-branded product, I just didn't want to believe it.
But once you think it through, it's inherently logical. Oranges from different years don't taste exactly the same. It is quite simply not possible--and not natural--to harvest and produce totally identical-tasting fruit juice from season to season and year to year. Mother Nature simply does not work that way. Tropicana would have to do something to their juice to make it perfectly uniform.
Here's another thought. Yes, it's weird that this brand of orange juice tastes exactly the same all over the United States, all year round. But it's even weirder that until a few months ago, it never crossed my mind that this might be weird. And I'm a food blogger! This is how far we as consumers have gotten from the food we eat.
In reality, the frozen concentrate orange juice in the freezer compartment suddenly doesn't look quite so bad in comparison. Yes, it's equally processed and manufactured, but it sells for one third the price. More importantly, it may more accurately reflect the true taste of orange juice. Things aren't always as they seem, are they?
Readers, ask yourselves: is this simulacrum of fresh orange juice really worth a premium price? Share your thoughts!
Freshly Squeezed: The Truth About Orange Juice in Boxes (Civil Eats)
The Secret Ingredient In Your Orange Juice (Food Renegade)
The Secret Ingredient In Orange Juice, Is NOT Orange (Healthy Times Blog)
Tropicana: Our 100% Juice Could Contain "Anything From Nature," Even Dairy (Consumerist)
Alissa Hamilton's book Squeezed: What You Don't Know About Orange Juice
How can I support Casual Kitchen?
If you enjoy reading Casual Kitchen, tell a friend and spread the word! You can also support me by purchasing items from Amazon.com via links on this site, or by linking to me or subscribing to my RSS feed. Finally, you can consider submitting this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to bookmarking sites like del.icio.us, digg or stumbleupon. Thank you for your support!