The Florida orange juice market could be moving east — far east.
A recent study led by Zhifeng Gao, an associate professor of food and resource economics at the University of Florida, shows that people in China would benefit from cheaper, high-quality orange juice.
Gao said producers in China readily market low-quality fruit juice as a high-quality, healthy beverage.
Currently, fruit juice products containing 10 percent real juice are available to consumers in China. Only online and high-end retailers in the country offer 100 percent not-from concentrate orange juice for over $8 for less than half a gallon.
The study group surveyed 1,053 shoppers in four major Chinese cities and found that while 86 percent of consumers thought there was a difference between “fruit juice” and “fruit juice drink,” only 22 percent knew Chinese juice drinks only contain 10 percent real juice.
“If Florida orange juice could keep up safety, freshness and high quality characteristics, maybe they could compete [with domestic producers],” Gao said.
Despite having a potential market for Florida Orange Juice in China, producers are still recovering from problems.
Since 2004, Florida orange production has declined from 242 million boxes of oranges to a forecasted 71 million boxes of oranges in 2016.
This decline is due to citrus greening, a disease which causes a tree to lower its production and eventually kills it.
Andrew Meadows, director of communications at Florida Citrus Mutual, said it’d be a while before Florida orange juice would have a large piece of the Chinese market. In fact, some companies are having to import juice from Brazil to make up for the deficit caused by citrus greening.
“Pretty much every drop of orange juice produced in the United States is staying in the United States,” Meadows said.
In addition to low production, there are high transportation costs associated with shipping fresh juice across the world, he said. If it were to make an appearance in China, it would likely be limited to high-end retailers and restaurants.
Even though a massive break into the market isn’t forecasted soon, some Florida citrus companies are starting to see the benefits of selling in China, said Michael Schadler, director of international marketing at the Florida Department of Citrus. These benefits include expanding the Florida orange juice brand and seeing better prices.
Schadler said in an email, “as new tools emerge to fight the disease, we will continue to keep a close eye on industry dynamics and potential growth markets such as this.”