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By Ned Hancock, Chairman of the Florida Citrus Commission

In many years as a grower, I have learned that no citrus season is alike. Each year, we face different challenges – natural and man-made – but we are also greeted with new opportunities. This season is setting up to be no different and may even bring us the most change yet.

Consumer behavior continues to shift as we collectively learn to live in a world that increasingly relies on digital and virtual communication and transactions. Online shopping continues to be a focus for many while retail sales trends continue to show an increased interest in 100% orange juice and other products that provide health benefits.

In fact, in the 4-week period ending August 29, average year-over-year sales of total OJ increased nearly 18 percent with 32.42 million equivalent gallons sold, according to the latest Nielsen Retail sales report. Sales of NFC OJ increased 22 percent for the period. Additionally, total OJ sales for the season beginning October 2019 are up by nearly 13 percent with 407.6 million equivalent gallons sold.

A look at the time period spanning from pre-pandemic in mid-February to the end of August shows that as consumers began to adapt to a new normal while still living under COVID-19 conditions, the sales lift remained elevated over the previous season. Since early March, the additional volume gains recorded by Nielsen have reached nearly 45.68 million gallons, which is roughly 8 million grower boxes.

But challenges persist for the new season, especially for NFC OJ at retail. The average price of NFC has increased, on average, nearly 3 percent each season over the last decade. The average number of NFC items at retail is down and there are early indications of reduced crop sizes to meet this new level of consumer demand in the long run.

With 80 percent of Florida Oranges becoming NFC OJ, continued marketing of NFC is critical to the success of the Florida grower. At this week’s Commission meeting, partner agency Edible presented a 2020-21 plan that aims to do just that.

Similar to the previous year, e-commerce remains the focus of the campaign, as consumers continue to turn to digital avenues to purchase grocery items. Since July, the e-commerce campaign has reached 71.9 million impressions and driven $1.8 million in attributed sales of 100% orange juice with a campaign ROAS (Return On Ad Spend) of $5.13. Overall, the 2020-21 campaign aims to reach 750 million impressions and drive $10 million in attributed sales of 100% orange juice with a ROAS (Return On Ad Spend) of $3. This will be achieved through a broadening of the audience and activities such as e-commerce programs leveraging existing partners at Instacart and Walmart as well as exploring opportunities with Kroger. Messaging will continue to focus on nutrition and wellness while highlighting the premium quality of Florida Orange Juice and NFC. Creative concepts aim to tie orange juice consumption to the situation our consumers find themselves in today, including highlighting work from home and wellness routines.

Next month, Commissioners will meet to set a budget for the year that will determine the exact cadence and level of support toward driving sales of 100% orange juice. This is our time to shine for consumers and keep reminding them why they can always count on “The Original Wellness Drink.”

Originally published in the Florida Citrus Mutual Triangle