Florida Citrus Logo

The beauty of Florida has captured eyes for centuries, and citrus has long been its most cherished product. One of the earliest examples of showcasing the citrus industry’s impact on the sunshine state was through the use of citrus crate labels – and that is how the Citrus Label Tour was born.

In the late 1800s, citrus was transported to the northern states via rail. Looking for a way to attract buyers, growers coordinated with the Florida Citrus Exchange to create an artistic advertising campaign utilizing a crate label. These bright and bold pieces of art had unique and personal features, typically depicting family members, pets, and a vision of the Florida lifestyle. The labels were primarily printed Tampa, and once completed they were attached to individual wooden crates in the growers’ packinghouses.

By showcasing fresh Florida citrus, and often times the tropical allure of the state, the public was able to build connections with growers while savoring the many positive aspects of Florida. It’s been said that citrus crate labels were Florida’s first billboards.

Labels were not only impressive marketing and branding pieces for growers, but they also aided customers in distinguishing between fruit grades. Labels with blue backgrounds were for Grade A citrus, which was the highest quality. Grade B had labels with a red background. Labels with a green background was citrus that was reserved for animal feed.

The use of crate labels lasted until World War II, when wood and metal supplies became harder to obtain, and it was at this time that the industry shifted to cardboard boxes with the grower’s label printed onto the box.

While many crate labels ended up in attics of old packinghouses, some passionate Floridians have taken it upon themselves to salvage and preserve this piece of citrus history. Many labels can be viewed in collections at the Univ. of Florida, Florida Southern College and the Indian River Citrus Museum. But others can be seen as you travel throughout Florida.

Through a partnership between the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame, Polk History Center and Visit Central Florida, the Citrus Label Tour was established. Comprised of 81 signs in total, the goal is to educate the public on the history of the citrus industry through the illustrated stories in the labels. The tour is now in four counties throughout Florida – Polk, Indian River, Lake and Manatee – for visitors and residents to savor a piece of Florida Citrus history. You can learn more about the Florida Citrus Tour at the Florida Citrus Museum web site.

To learn more about the Citrus Label Tour, visit the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame.