So I’m back in Missouri after spending 36 hours here:
I was invited by Tropicana to go on their Grove to Glass tour in Bradenton/Sarasota Florida with a small group of dietitians. It was very nice to connect with other dietitians, including:
- Alex Caspero, RD
- Janice Bissex, MS, RD
- Anne Mauney, MPH, RD
- Karen Ansel, MS, RDN, CDN
- Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, MA, RD
- Frances Largeman-Roth, RD
- Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, CSD, LDN
My flight into Florida left at 5:30am from St. Louis which meant a very early alarm on Wednesday morning. But I couldn’t complain too much because that allowed me to be on the beach by 11 am. Can’t beat that.
I enjoyed lunch on the beach (delivered straight to my beach chair) and 2 whole hours of uninterrupted relaxing which made up for the ridiculous 2:45am wake up call. Look carefully at that name on the glass. Yup. Livin the good life at the Ritz. The accommodations were amazing and I only wish I could have stayed longer!
After cleaning up, we had a group dinner at the Ritz Beach Club on the patio watching the sunset.
And when a bunch of dietitian/bloggers get together for dinner, you do not eat until a photo is snapped of every course. So here we go:
The next day was the Grove to Glass tour with the first stop in the orange groves in Bradenton. We met with grove manager and he gave us some insight on the process to grow and harvest Florida oranges.
Here are some fun facts:
- Orange season is from November to Mid June with 4 varieties of oranges being used in Tropicana orange juice.
- The oranges are picked at the peak of ripeness depending on the variety. The ripeness is determined by the amount of sugar and citric acid present.
- One orange tree can contain up to 500 oranges with about 3 oz per orange yielding 12 gallons of orange juice per tree per harvest.
- Oranges are picked by hand, all 500 oranges per tree. A skilled picker can pick one tree in 15 minutes!
- All Florida citrus trees have what’s called a Citrus Greening disease or Citrus Huanglongbing (HLB) caused by a bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus. This is causing the citrus crop, including oranges to decrease thus causing orange juice price to increase.
From the grove, the next stop was to the Tropicana plant which was only 20 minute drive from the grove. We sampled the “blend of the day” as the person in charge quality control spoke to us about how a consistent product is produced every day at Tropicana. Side note – freshly made orange juice is AMAZING!
Here’s a question: fresh fruit is only available during half the year (November to mid-June) but demand is constant, how can a consistent product be made year round?
Tropicana will use a certain portion of their fresh juice for processing and store the rest away in storage tanks for later use. When fresh fruit is no longer available, they use their stored juice however, they have optimized storage and it still tastes fresh! Even the complexities and chemistries of fresh juice changes with each delivery so Tropicana has master blenders determine how to create a consistent product throughout the year. Tropicana juice has the right balance of sweetness and tartness as well as the amount of orange essential oils. All of these things go into consideration when making the “blend of the day.”
After lunch, we had a few presentations talking first about the state of Florida orange industry. The biggest take away for me what their mission. To educate about the benefits of including orange juice in your daily life.
The amazing Five: Taste, Vitamin C, Potassium, Folate and No added sugar. All of these things make it a reason to include some orange juice. Some common myths were dispelled that the sugars in orange juice are adding to obesity rates which is not necessarily true.
Next we had a discussion about the current research around the benefits of certain bioactive compounds found in orange juice. There are some studies that suggest drinking orange juice and the antioxidant compounds found in orange juice may improve cognition. As there is limited studies available, much more research is needed to fully understand this statement.
Some nutrients are actually made more available for your body to absorb through the juice process making an industrial made juice, like Tropicana actually contain higher amounts of certain nutrients, like the bioactive compound hesperidin, which has been linked to improved cognition as discussed above. Pretty neat!
They toured us around the various steps in juice making starting with where the fruit is received, washed, sliced and juiced. All the pulp is removed and only added back in when they are producing juices with pulp. The orange peels are re-used as cattle feed so nothing goes to waste. Nothing is added to the to juice. It really is just the juice squeezed from the oranges!
We were shown the aseptic storage tanks (a fancy word for completely sterile) where they store fresh juice for later use. They were enormous tanks containing about a quarter of a million gallons of orange juice! The packaging step was all automated and efficient. From the moment the juice is piped in, it will be bottled, packaged and ready to ship in less than 2 minutes. The juice is kept cold through the entire process thus maintaining and preserving its’ nutritional integrity.
Interesting side note: the expiration dates are determined by when the quality is no longer to Tropicana’s standards meaning the taste is no longer as it should be and the nutrition content has declined.
My experience at the Tropicana Grove to Glass tour was informative and enjoyable. Thank you to Tropicana for having me and giving me the opportunity to learn more about your process and product. I definitely will continue to drink Tropicana and pass on all the great information I learned on the tour.
I’ll leave you with this video that summarizes the Grove to Glass tour. Enjoy!