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By Ned Hancock, Chairman of the Florida Citrus Commission

As COVID-19 concerns continue to spread across the U.S., the very way Americans operate is beginning to change. From social distancing to grocery shopping, our behaviors are evolving to fit the requirements of this unprecedented time.  Online shopping is growing while consumers are increasingly seeking foods and beverages that offer health and nutritional benefits.

A Nielsen retail sales report released today indicates that many Americans are turning to 100% orange juice during this time. The report, which covers the four-week period ending March 14, shows average year over year sales of total OJ increased 9.8 percent to 34.85 million equivalent gallons. The news was similar when looking at just NFC (9.4%) or Recon (9.3%). Additionally, average total OJ sales for the season beginning October 2019 are down by only 0.3% with 192 million equivalent gallons sold so far this season.

But the most striking number: In the last week of the period, as the U.S. response to the global pandemic increased, sales of total OJ rose 40 percent compared to the same week last year.

According to Nielsen, 100% orange juice isn’t the only product to see such growth.

“Pantry preparations among U.S. consumers have fueled record sales of more than just masks and hand sanitizers. Sales have also peaked for antiseptics, cleaners, over-the-counter cold remedies and other health-related essentials. Consumers also rushed to stock their pantries with shelf-stable food during the last week of February, as seen in the huge sales leaps of dried beans (+37%), canned meat (+32%) and rice (+25%),” according to a Nielsen report on consumer behaviors1.

While NFC OJ isn’t shelf-stable, it is a beverage with well-known health benefits, including its vitamin C content. Consumer awareness of this is thanks, in part, to decades of grower supported messaging and research.

While we won’t know the full impact COVID-19 concerns will have on the Florida Citrus industry for some time, early projections call for continued demand. This is not something we take lightly. We fully understand the costs of this disease on our society. At the same time, we also know that an increase in demand means more growers may keep their groves. And, that will help us feed America when they need us the most.

The Department of Citrus is continuing its campaign aimed at driving sales of 100% orange juice while highlighting the nutritional benefits each glass provides. The campaign connects consumers directly with online retailers at Amazon, Walmart, Target and Instacart through targeted digital and social media ads.

Since January, the campaign has delivered more than $1.67 million in attributed sales of 100% orange juice and reached 149 million impressions. The e-commerce program with Instacart is delivering a Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) of $5.27 and continues to pace well with daily sales numbers between $29K and $33K – which is up from the $17K daily average at the start of the program.

The recent strain on supply at some retailers due to increased demand has caused some strategic shifts in how funds are being allocated between the multiple channels. But the campaign continues to see strong results overall. As consumer behaviors continue to evolve, the FDOC will evaluate and adjust accordingly to best support the brands and drive sales of 100% orange juice.

Stay safe and drink your OJ.

Total OJ Sales in Equivalent Gallons chart

Source: Nielsen xAOC

1 https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/article/2020/key-consumer-behavior-thresholds-identified-as-the-coronavirus-outbreak-evolves/

Originally published in the Florida Citrus Mutual Triangle