Chairman Johnson: A Commitment to Growth

I write a lot about the importance of teamwork and collaboration here. That’s because I truly believe it’s an essential component of this industry’s success. And fortunately, I’m not alone. Today, a shining example of the synergy happening in our industry is the partnership between the Florida Citrus Commission/Department of Citrus and Florida Citrus Mutual. The two entities, which at times have diverse missions, have come together to support Florida growers during a challenging period. This month, as Matt Joyner takes over as CEO and Executive Vice President of Mutual, I’m confident in saying that partnership will only grow.

As Mike Sparks begins his transition to a well-earned retirement, I’m heartened by the fact that we have a familiar face in place who knows our industry well and has already proven himself as a staunch supporter in the halls of the Capitol and in the company of growers. I’ll save my goodbyes for Mike for another time – he doesn’t officially retire until June – but extend my thanks to him for a job well done and a kudos for securing a successor who will ensure Mutual’s legacy lives on.  The Commission and Department look forward to a close relationship with Matt and aligning with the state’s largest grower organization to ensure what is best for Florida growers remain a priority for all.

As the season winds down, so too do the fresh marketing programs at the Department. March marked the end of Gift Fruit promotions, which drove consumers to purchase fresh Florida Citrus for the holidays, new year, and as unique gifts. Programs to support fresh Grapefruit, Oranges, and Specialty Citrus also wrapped after successful partnerships with influencers and eCommerce organizations.

Consumers also continue to seek out Florida Orange Juice. The Department’s eCommerce program has driven $51.8 million in attributed sales of Florida Orange Juice since its launch in July.

However, the latest report from Nielsen may indicate that inflation could be making an impact on buying decisions. For the 4-week period ending March 26, average year-over-year NFC OJ sales decreased by 0.4% compared to pre-pandemic sales of 2019 while average season-to-date sales of NFC increased by 7.4% compared to that same year, according to the 3-year 2019 Baseline Comparison Report.

With inflation expected to impact the prices of goods across the board for some time, the Department is exploring ways to ensure consumers continue to consider Florida Orange Juice an important beverage for their overall wellness and health.

A tactic that helped increase awareness of the health benefits of Florida Orange Juice this season included digital advertising at 17 airports at major travel destinations throughout the U.S., including every Florida airport, during the Spring Break period. This campaign delivered more than 5 million views of “The Original Wellness Drink” messaging.

Planning is currently underway for the 2022-23 season with more information to come soon.

Steve Johnson is Chairman of the Florida Citrus Commission, which oversees the Florida Department of Citrus. He is the owner and general manager of Johnson Harvesting, Inc., based in Wauchula, FL.