How Orange Juice Gets Consistent Flavor Throughout the Year?

One of the major juice makers who create fresh squeeze, not from concentrate orange juice.

How does the juice industry consistently produce orange juice throughout the year? Even when oranges purchased at the grocery store when oranges are in season are never always sweet? I always assumed that when juiced in large quantities, the sweet oranges would greatly outnumber the less-sweet oranges. But that doesn’t explain the perfect year-round consistency.

What I’ve learned is that major orange juice brands that are “pasteurized, not from concentration” juice such as Tropiciana, Minute Maid, Florida’s Natural, and Simply Orange have a distinct and complicated process to ensure a consistent orange juice flavoring with the help of “flavor packs”.

  1. Oranges sourced (sometimes from other countries where more relaxed rules and regulations reduce overall costs) are picked during the peak orange season and juiced.
  2. To prevent the juice from spoiling, manufacturers use a process that removed oxygen from the juice. A consequence of this process is the natural orange juice flavor is also removed. According to Alissa Hamilton (author of “Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice”), “If you would taste the juice coming out of these tanks, it wouldn't taste like orange juice. It would taste like sugar water".
  3. The juice from oranges is then pasteurized to ensure a shelf-life of approximately a year.
  4. To add the orange flavoring back before shipping finished orange juice to grocery stores, “flavor packs” are used to re-flavor the juice to give it the consistent, orange juice taste. Each company has its own mix of flavors, distinguishing their finished orange juice from their competitors.

Since the “flavor packs” are individual chemicals derived from the byproduct (oils and essences) of oranges that have been recombined, manufacturers are not required to list it in the ingredients. Hamilton continues, “With the flavor packs, you're getting chemicals in different concentrations you wouldn't normally have in fresh-squeezed product”. These flavor packs are engineered by flavor and fragrance companies (same ones that formulate perfume).

When I first became aware of these practices by major orange juice producers, I was disgusted! Never once had I questioned why and how orange juice could taste so good throughout the year. But due to limited convenient options, I still drink pasteurized, not from concentration orange juice. And after a more practical view, my opinion is:

  • There is nothing wrong about their process. I like this option of buying a carton of juice from the grocery store and expecting a certain flavor. I’ve been recently buying the Costco branded orange juice that is also pasteurized and not from concentrate. I assume Costco sources their juice from manufactures that utilize the same process. But for an unknown reason, Costco’s juice tastes off (but not spoiled) about 10% of the time. If Costco’s didn’t have a lenient return policy, I would stick with one of the other big brand names. Additional, most shoppers at grocery stores will compare for the lowest price or best taste. Those looking for heatlhier orange juice alternatives already go to farmer markets.
  • Using “flavor packs” is not unhealthy. The bottom-line is the whole “flavor packs” originate from the orange, even if in chemically different proportions. Now if a GMO orange has been invented that I’m unaware of that introduces un-natural chemicals for “flavor packs”, that would be unacceptable in my book. Ultimately, it's a healthy practice to know what is going in your body.
  • Nothing wrong with not stating “flavor pack” breakdown in the nutritional facts. Since the entire “flavor pack” is derived from the by-product of oranges, it is currently fair to just list it as Oranges. Though it would be nice, my gut instinct tells me that a majority of the population (including myself) would be unable to decipher the ingredients. The alternative is that consumers should be aware of the process.
  • My biggest problem with the finished orange juice is (as a consumer) I feel tricked. Every orange juice commercial I remember implies that orange juice is freshly picked from the orange groves, juiced, and delivered (sometimes by the farmer himself to indicate freshness). As we now know, the opposite is true and the de-oxygenated orange juice can remain in storage vats for at least a year before being re-flavored by chemical scientists.

I encourage everyone to read more on the topic. I sourced my information from various websites including (not in any particular order):

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