Shannon Shepp Column – January 8, 2021

By Shannon Shepp, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Citrus

This month marks the one-year anniversary of the launch of the FDOC’s game-changing e-commerce marketing program to drive sales of 100% orange juice at retail. While no one could have predicted what 2020 had in store, we knew from the body of research that directly impacting sales of Florida Orange Juice required a program that would connect consumers with the product. The increasing popularity of online shopping and the launch of e-commerce platforms at traditional retail grocery stores allowed us an efficient and effective manner of doing so.

The unprecedented events of 2020 advanced the timeline of consumer use of e-commerce and heightened a pursuit for food and beverages that contribute to overall health. Already positioned to serve consumers in this way, FDOC programs drove more than $11 million in directly attributable sales of OJ in one year.

Today, the program continues to exceed expectations. This week the e-commerce programs reached 178 million impressions and $6.3 million in attributable sales with a ROAS of $6.50 since the start of the 2020-21 season in July.

Overall, sales of total OJ are higher than in previous years with the most recent period matching 2016 levels. In the four week-period ending Dec. 26, 2020, average year-over-year sales of total OJ increased 7.68 percent with nearly 37.39 million equivalent gallons sold, according to the latest Nielsen Retail sales update. Volume sales of NFC OJ are up 10.49 percent for the period with nearly 23.2 million equivalent gallons of NFC sold. Volume sales of Recon OJ are up by 2.66 percent with nearly 11.7 million equivalent gallons sold.

As we approach yet another anniversary – the onset of the pandemic in the U.S. – consumers continue to seek out OJ for its health benefits. Since March, 27 percent of respondents in the FDOC’s monthly survey of American consumers have indicated they purchased more orange juice due to concerns over COVID-19. Of those, 50 percent have indicated they wanted to stock up on essentials, 68 percent indicated it was due to the health and wellness attributes of 100 percent orange juice, and 12 percent indicated it was because they were having breakfast more often at home. Furthermore, of the 11 percent who had indicated they were purchasing less OJ amid concerns associated with COVID-19, 27 percent had indicated it was because orange juice was out of stock. 

However, as vaccinations begin to roll out and consumers are able to return to their normal routines, we must turn our attention toward maintaining this demand by keeping 100 percent orange juice top of mind. Total OJ movement from Florida Processors is up 5 percent this season over last and there are currently less than 13 weeks supply of NFC OJ. Further demand would require increased imports. The key to the success of Florida growers will be keeping demand in line with the ability to produce Florida Oranges. Continued marketing programs at retail, where the majority of orange juice containing Florida-sourced oranges is sold, is a viable strategy at this stage.

In a historic moment last year, Commissioners recognized this need to foster and protect demand when they voted to increase the assessment rate for processed oranges. Today, we see those additional dollars going to work in the form of new partnerships with Kroger, banner ads with Instacart, further work with Amazon, a video to reach retail category managers and an expanded target audience that now reaches light and lapsed OJ buyers encouraging them to consume more.

The Kroger program, which launched last month, has driven more than $1.5 million in directly attributable sales in the past four weeks alone at an extremely strong ROAS of $18.46.

While we do not yet know what 2021 will bring our way, we can be certain that the shift we made last January will have a lasting impact on this industry. Looking ahead, we plan to continue to layer new and enterprising programs that serve to enhance our ability to drive sales and support the ever-evolving Florida Citrus industry.

We also plan to continue the FDOC webinar series this year, as a way to further reach and support the industry, with two slated for this month.

Over the holidays, our Scientific Research Department closely followed the news of the release of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and analyzed its impact on 100% fruit juice, including 100% OJ. Please join us for a webinar on the topic on January 14 at 11 a.m. as Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Gail Rampersaud reviews the process behind the Guidelines and outlines its recommendations related to 100% fruit juice while highlighting opportunities to support the inclusion of 100% orange juice as part of a healthy diet.

Additionally, Dr. Lisa House will share the impacts of marketing ‘Florida’ as an attribute and other factors on consumers’ willingness to pay for OJ in a webinar on Jan. 19 at 9 a.m. A link to attend will be added to FDOCGrower.com soon.

Originally published in the Florida Citrus Mutual Triangle