August 16th, 2011
Do you buy orange juice at the store? If you do, I’m sure you’re careful to buy the kind that’s 100% juice and not made from concentrate. After all, that’s the healthier kind, right? The more natural kind? The kind without any additives? The kind that’s sold in the refrigerator section so it must be almost as good as fresh-squeezed orange juice?
If I’m describing you, then you’re either going to hate me or love me by the time you’re done reading this post. The truth is, that orange juice you feel so good about buying is probably none of those things. You’ve been making assumptions based on logic. The food industry follows its own logic because of the economies of scale. What works for you in your kitchen when making a glass or two of juice simply won’t work when trying to process thousands upon thousands of gallons of the stuff.
Haven’t you ever wondered why every glass of Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice tastes the same, no matter where in the world you buy it or what time of year you’re drinking it in? Or maybe your brand of choice is Minute Maid or Simply Orange or Florida’s Natural. Either way, I can ask the same question. Why is the taste and flavor so consistent? Why is it that the Minute Maid never tastes like the Tropicana, but always tastes like its own unique beverage?
Generally speaking, beverages that taste consistently the same follow recipes. They’re things like Coca Cola or Pepsi or a Starbucks Frappuccino. When you make orange juice at home, each batch tastes a little different depending on the oranges you made it from. I hope you’re hearing warning bells in your head right about now.
The reason your store bought orange juice is so consistently flavorful has more to do with chemistry than nature.
Making OJ should be pretty simple. Pick oranges. Squeeze them. Put the juice in a carton and voilà!
But actually, there is an important stage in between that is an open secret in the OJ industry. After the oranges are squeezed, the juice is stored in giant holding tanks and, critically, the oxygen is removed from them. That essentially allows the liquid to keep (for up to a year) without spoiling– but that liquid that we think of as orange juice tastes nothing like the Tropicana OJ that comes out of the carton. (source)
In fact, it’s quite flavorless. So, the industry uses “flavor packs” to re-flavor the de-oxygenated orange juice:
When the juice is stripped of oxygen it is also stripped of flavor providing chemicals. Juice companies therefore hire flavor and fragrance companies, the same ones that formulate perfumes for Dior and Calvin Klein, to engineer flavor packs to add back to the juice to make it taste fresh. Flavor packs aren’t listed as an ingredient on the label because technically they are derived from orange essence and oil. Yet those in the industry will tell you that the flavor packs, whether made for reconstituted or pasteurized orange juice, resemble nothing found in nature. The packs added to juice earmarked for the North American market tend to contain high amounts of ethyl butyrate, a chemical in the fragrance of fresh squeezed orange juice that, juice companies have discovered, Americans favor. Mexicans and Brazilians have a different palate. Flavor packs fabricated for juice geared to these markets therefore highlight different chemicals, the decanals say, or terpene compounds such as valencine.
The formulas vary to give a brand’s trademark taste. If you’re discerning you may have noticed Minute Maid has a candy like orange flavor. That’s largely due to the flavor pack Coca-Cola has chosen for it. Some companies have even been known to request a flavor pack that mimics the taste of a popular competitor, creating a “hall of mirrors” of flavor packs. Despite the multiple interpretations of a freshly squeezed orange on the market, most flavor packs have a shared source of inspiration: a Florida Valencia orange in spring.
Why aren’t these flavor packs listed as ingredients?
Good question! As with all industrial foods, it’s because of our convoluted labeling laws. You see, these “flavor packs are made from orange by-products — even though these ‘by-products’ are so chemically manipulated that they hardly qualify as ‘by-products’ any more.” (source) Since they’re made from by-products that originated in oranges, they can be added to the orange juice without being considered an “ingredient,” despite the fact that they are chemically altered.
So, what should you do about it?
First off, I must ask: Why are you drinking juice?? Juice removed from the fruit is just concentrated fructose without any of the naturally-occurring fiber, pectin, and other goodies that make eating a whole fruit good for you. Did you know, for example, that it takes 6-8 medium sized apples to make just 1 cup of apple juice? You probably wouldn’t be able to eat 6-8 medium apples in a single sitting. (I know I can barely eat one!) But you can casually throw back a cup of apple juice, and you would probably be willing to return for seconds. That’s why fruit juice is dangerous. It’s far too easy to consume far too much sugar.
So, my first piece of advice is to get out of the juice habit altogether. It’s expensive, and it’s not worth it.
My second piece of advice is to only drink juices that you make yourself, and preferably ones that you’ve turned into a healthy, probiotic beverage (like this naturally-fermented lemonade my own family enjoys). Sally Fallon Morrell’s Nourishing Traditions cookbook (pictured at right) has several lacto-fermented juice coolers that are pleasant, albeit expensive. (I especially like the Grape Cooler, Raspberry Drink, and Ginger Beer.) Want to make juicing easier? See here for where to buy juicers and Vitamix blenders.
And finally, opt out of the industrial food system as much as you can. If you learn anything at all from this post, it should be that you never know what’s in your food unless you grow it, harvest it, or make it yourself. Second best (and more practical for many, including myself) is to pay somebody I trust to do it — like the farmers at my Farmer’s Market, the cattle rancher I buy my annual grass-fed beef order from, or the chef at my local restaurant who’s willing to transparently answer questions about how he sources ingredients and what goes into the dish I’m ordering.
August 4th, 2011
The Huffington Post
File this one under “things we always sort of knew, but wish we didn’t.” All that “100% orange juice, not from concentrate” stuff you’ve been drinking? Technically, it’s “not from concentrate,” but it’s not really 100% orange juice either, a report at Civil Eats details.
The process is rather depressing. Gizmodo explains part of the process:
Once the juice is squeezed and stored in gigantic vats, they start removing oxygen. Why? Because removing oxygen from the juice allows the liquid to keep for up to a year without spoiling. But! Removing that oxygen also removes the natural flavors of oranges. Yeah, it’s all backwards. So in order to have OJ actually taste like oranges, drink companies hire flavor and fragrance companies, the same ones that make perfumes for Dior, to create these “flavor packs” to make juice taste like, well, juice again.
Any taste difference in say Minute Maid versus Tropicana is therefore due to the specific flavor pack the company uses. Since these flavor packs are made from orange byproducts, they don’t have to be considered an ingredient, and therefore are not required to appear on food labels. This is despite the fact they are chemically altered.
Perhaps its time to take the juicer out of that dusty corner in the garage.
UPDATE: Karen Mathis, the Public Relations Director of the Florida Department of Citrus wrote HuffPost Food the following letter that offers the citrus industry’s description of the process, without disputing any of the above:
Dear Ms. Polis,
On behalf of the Florida Department of Citrus, I am writing in response to the article on HuffPost Food, entitled “Why 100% Orange Juice is Still Artificial.” Please allow me to share further information.
Purchased by nearly 70 percent of American households, people choose 100 percent orange juice for its great taste and nutrition benefits. Both “from concentrate” and “not from concentrate” orange juice are healthy options that provide a variety of nutrients. By utilizing state-of-the-art technology, Florida is able to provide a consistent supply of high quality, nutritious orange juice year round.
By law, 100 percent orange juice is made only from oranges. The basic principle of orange juice processing is similar to how you make orange juice at home. Oranges are washed and the juice is extracted by squeezing the oranges. Seeds and particles are strained out. Orange juice is pasteurized to ensure food safety.
During processing, natural components such as orange aroma, orange oil from the peel, and pulp may be separated from the orange juice. After the juice is pasteurized, these natural orange components may be added back to the orange juice for optimal flavor.
Please visit www.OrangeJuiceFacts.com for more information about orange juice.
Please feel free to contact me if you’d like to discuss in more detail. Thank you for your time and consideration.
April 4th, 2011
By: Douglas McIntyre
U.S. food prices have been rising in the last year, but it seems the growth is only just beginning. A sharp jump in commodities’ prices this year will soon result in sticker shock for American consumers.
Large food companies have recently announced that they will raise the prices they charge grocery retailers for commodities-based products. For example, a chocolate bar will cost more soon: Hershey last week announced a 10% increase for most of its confectionery goods.
Of course, straightforward price hikes could cause consumers to buy less of those products or to choose less costly store brands. So in many cases, food companies are trying a different tactic: Keeping the price of an item the same while decreasing the amount of food in the package. The company recoups the costs of the rise in commodities and hopes consumers don’t notice that they’re getting less of the product for the same price.
Food companies have no obligation to tell customers about the smaller packages, but may suffer a backlash from consumers who notice how the packaging trick works. Here are some of the shrinking products that you might notice in your grocery aisles:
Company: Kellogg (K)
Commodities: corn, wheat, sugar
Size Reduction: roughly 15%, or 2.4 ounces, on average
Kellogg, which makes cereal such as Apple Jacks and Corn Pops, has passed higher grain costs on to consumers. In 2008, the company reduced the amount of cereal in its boxes by an average of 2.4 ounces. And in February, the company announced that it will raise the price of its cereals 3% to 4%. According to a U.S. Agriculture Department report in March, “higher wheat commodity costs should begin to affect cereal and bakery product prices over the next few months, causing prices to rise 3.5% to 4.5% overall in 2011.”
Commodities: cocoa, dairy, nuts
Size Reduction: 11%, or 0.41 ounces
Supposedly in response to pleas from obesity activists, the Mars Company split their “King Size” Snickers bar in half so that it could be more easily shared between two people. What calls the nobility of the company’s intentions into question is that, in addition to making the cut, Mars also reduced the total amount of candy in each package from 3.7ounces to 3.29 ounces — an 11% decrease — while keeping the price the same.
Company: PepsiCo (PEP)
Commodities: frozen orange juice concentrate, gasoline
Size Reduction: 8%, or 5 ounces
A series of prolonged frosts last year sent citrus prices up 11.5% and drove up the price of frozen orange-juice concentrate to several-year highs. Meanwhile, the cost of transporting the concentrate has gone up as gas prices have increased. In response, Tropicana has made two adjustments: It increased the price of its gallon jugs by 5-8% and stealthily reduced the size of its half-gallon cartons from 64 ounces to 59 ounces. This 5-ounce reduction represents nearly an 8% decrease in size.
Company: General Mills (GIS)
Commodity: dairy, sugar, cocoa
Size Reduction: 12.5%, or 2 fluid ounces
The luxury-ice-cream company reduced the size of its standard container to significantly less than a pint, cutting it 12.5% from 16 fluid ounces to 14 fluid ounces. To make the smaller package less obvious, the company cleverly kept the top the same size, so it looks identical from above, but tapers dramatically in the middle. Haagen-Dazs’s cheaper brands, Edy’s and Breyer’s, have cut their portions as well. Daily prices increased just over 1% in 2010, but are expected to rise as much as 5.5% in 2011.
Chicken of the Sea Tuna
Company: Thai Union Group
Size Reduction: 17%, or 1 ounce
Chicken of the Sea’s albacore tuna, previously sold in 6-ounce cans, now comes in 5-ounce cans. Rising tuna prices amid a worldwide shortage of the fish are partly to blame. Other tuna brands also have shrunk their can sizes, a trend which has been going on for years. Just over a decade ago, tuna was most commonly sold in 7-ounce cans.
Company: PepsiCo (PEP)
Commodity: wheat, corn, potatoes
Size Reduction: 12.5% – 20%
With all the air included in chips packaging, it is easy for manufacturers to reduce the amount of chips in the bags without drawing attention. PepsiCo reduced the Lay’s “Family Size” potato-chip bag from 16 ounces to 14 ounces in 2009. Bags of Doritos, Tostitos, and Fritos now contain 20% fewer chips than they did in 2009, according to The New York Times. Even smaller bags have been reduced by a quarter of an ounce. Rising gain prices have driven the changes.
Today, Kevin gives you more proof that inflation isn’t coming… it’s already here.
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January 6th, 2011
By: Lyneka Little
Are you getting less cups of o.j. from that carton of Tropicana these days? Are you running out of toilet paper before the next planned shopping trip?
If so, your mind is not playing tricks on you. And the kids are not playing hide-and-seek with the household goods. The products are shrinking.
“From toothpaste to tuna fish, hot dogs to hand soap, companies have been shaving ounces and inches from packages for years,” according to a study released by Consumer Reports.
In some cases, the reduction was as much as 20 percent, according to the study. To keep consumers from noticing the incredible disappearing act, manufacturers have grown clever about packaging.
“It’s one of the oldest tricks in the books,” says Sally Greenberg, executive director at National Consumers League, a consumer organization based in Washington, D.C. “It’s a very common practice. I think it’s unpopular and I advise companies not to do it.”
With fuel prices and the cost of ingredients rising, companies may add a little air with your next ice cream purchase, or they may add a slight indentation to a container to shave the size of the product.
“I think it’s deceptive on the part of companies. If they have to pass prices along, they should explain ‘we have higher fuel prices and we have to make up the price somehow,’” says Greenberg. “I think it makes consumers mad, it makes them cynical about being deceived and consumers would appreciate a more straight-forward approach,” says Greenberg.
“Manufacturers make subtle changes to the packages but generally keep the price the same because when prices rise, buyers often seek cheaper alternatives. And the bottom line is that consumers are more attuned to changes in price than packaging,” according to Consumer Reports.
The report in the February edition of Consumer Reports magazine suggests consumers consider switching unit prices, stock up and save, buy in bulk or contact the company.
“Unit pricing is one of the great consumer victories,” says Greenberg. “It does the work for you. You don’t have to be a computer genius to do the math.”
And, if you’re still not happy about the fuzzy math, consider reaching out to companies. “Let them know and make sure the company knows about your dissatisfaction,” says Greenberg.
“Companies need to hear from customers and they usually make it fairly easy to do that.”
Tropicana Orange Juice
Old Size: 64 oz
New Size: 59 oz
Ivory Dish Detergent
Old Size: 30 oz
New Size: 24 oz
Kraft American Cheese
Old Size: 24 slices
New Size: 22 slices
Kirkland Signature Costco Paper Towels
Old Size: 96.2 sq. ft.
New Size: 85 sq. ft.
Haagen Dazs Ice Cream
Old Size: 16 oz
New Size: 14 0z
Scott Toilet Issue
Old Size: 115.2 sq. ft
New Size: 104.8 sq ft.
Lanacane First Aid Spray
Old Size: 113 grams
New Size: 99 grams
Chicken of the Sea Salmon
Old Size: 3 oz
New Size: 2.6 oz
Old Size: 10 oz
New Size 8.1 oz
Hebrew National Franks
Old Size: 12 oz
New Size: 110z
July 23, 2010
PepsiCo has announced a worldwide plan to decrease its contribution to poor health through widespread changes to its product line, drawing both praise and skepticism.
The company has committed to reduce the sodium content of “key foods” by 25 percent by 2015, the saturated fat content of “key foods” by 15 percent by 2020, and the added sugar content in “key drinks” by 25 percent by 2020. It plans to incorporate more fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and low-fat dairy into its product line and to develop new artificial salts and low- or no-calorie sweeteners. Pepsi also plans to expand and triple the sales of its healthier product lines, including Naked juice, Tazo tea, Tropicana and Quaker.
The announcement that drew the most attention, however, is the company’s commitment to stop selling full-sugar beverages in schools worldwide by 2012. The move is an expansion of a policy implemented in U.S. schools in 2006.
Under the new policy, Pepsi will sell only water, fat-free and low-fat milk, and sugar-free juice for general consumption in primary schools. Gatorade will be made available only “when physical activity is carried out — in special relation to sports, not for everyday use,” according to Derek Yach, the company’s senior vice president of global health policy. The same rules will be in force in secondary schools, except that low-calorie (diet) drinks may be sold in those schools.
Pepsi garnered praise for the move, with Kelly Brownell of Yale University comparing it favorably with country-specific pledges by the tobacco industry. Yet even the much-lauded school policy has its loopholes. Aside from the vague guidelines over when sugary sports drinks can be sold, the new policy still allows Pepsi to sell sugary fruit juices. In addition, Brownell noted, whether the policies will lead to an overall decrease in caloric consumption remains to be seen.