Citrus growers fight OJ detractors
JOHN BUCHANANAlmost nothing is more iconic than Florida orange juice.
Published: January 23, 2013
Published: January 23, 2013
But that has not spared it from misinformation and inaccurate media reporting that has compared its sugar content to soft drinks and questioned its nutritional value.
Florida Department of Citrus, the Bartow-based national marketing organization that supports Florida citrus growers, has launched an aggressive campaign to educate consumers.
The basic message is simple and straightforward.
"It is that 100 percent orange juice can be part of a healthful diet to promote nutrient adequacy and improved diet quality," said Karen Mathis, FDOC's public relations director. "There is misinformation about 100 percent orange juice and the sugar naturally present in it that may cause consumer confusion. So, Florida Department of Citrus wanted to make sure that consumers and health professionals had accurate information about the beneficial role of 100 percent orange juice in a healthy diet."
Marty McKenna, owner of Sebring-headquartered McKenna & Associates Citrus, which produces oranges on 1,000 acres in Highlands, Hardee and Polk counties, explained why the new initiative — launched last month after being approved by FDOC's governing body, the Florida Citrus Commission — is so important to him as a grower.
"When we read and see statements that mislead consumers by saying that 100 percent orange juice is similar to soda pop when it comes to sugar content, we really can't understand that," said McKenna, who sits on the FDOC board. "And it's important that we do something about that to correct that kind of misinformation."
And a big part of that is making it known that 100 percent orange juice cannot accurately be compared to soft drinks when it comes to sugar content or overall nutrition.
"What we have seen in the recent past is that sometimes the media is not including scientifically based statements in their reporting," Mathis said. "And that leads to consumer confusion."
In defense of the industry, FDOC has created a comprehensive campaign aimed at both consumers and health care professionals across the United States.
One key component is a new web site, OJNutrition.com, developed specifically for health care professionals. "All of the information presented there is based on scientific research that documents the nutritional and health benefits of consuming 100 percent orange juice," Mathis said.
The consumer-oriented PR campaign, dubbed "OJ Nutrition: Telling the 100% Story," is an informational program launched earlier this month.
"That information is being posted on the Florida orange juice Facebook page," Mathis said. "Through interactive materials, we are demonstrating to consumers the benefits of orange juice in a fun and engaging way."
Additional social media channels such as Twitter will also be used to reach and engage consumers nationwide. FDOC will soon commence a nationwide satellite media tour.
"We will be reaching consumers through television, radio and online news outlets to deliver messaging about 100 percent orange juice," Mathis said.
In addition to PR activities, the campaign also features a very strong online advertising component.
"That includes strategically targeted banner ads designed to drive consumers to the organization's Facebook page," Mathis said. "There will also be a related effort to reach health care professionals through dedicated banner ads to drive them to the toolkit on the new website aimed at them."
Mathis and McKenna said they are confident the new effort can turn the media tide and correct previous misreporting.
"The truth about orange juice is that it has a lot of nutritional value for consumers — things like vitamin C, folic acid and potassium," McKenna said. "And in terms of calories, you're getting good nutritional value from the calories you consume. So when statements are made that orange juice is like soda pop, I as a grower want a program like the one we're launching to correct the record by putting out accurate information. … We can't sit back and do nothing while that kind of misinformation is being put out there."