The Unbelievable Amount Of Orange Juice Americans Drink Each Year

In July 2020, Statista released data about the amount of orange juice Americans drank and estimated that 532,000 metric tons of orange juice were consumed in the United States in 2020 alone. That adds up to 741,022,800 gallons of straight orange-y stuff. Per capita, in 2018, Americans consumed six gallons of juice.

Though it may be shocking, the apparently massive amount of orange juice actually marks a downwards trend in orange juice drinking. In 2008, the year with the highest recorded amount of OJ drinking in the last 12 years, Americans consumed 865,000 metric tons. The orange juice drinking bump in 2020 may have had something to do with the spike in orange juice consumption during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic. The reasoning seems to be that the added vitamin C would help boost the immune system.

Still, the trajectory for the drink is clearly downwards. In an investigation of the trend, Time assigns blame to the higher prices of citrus due to diseased crops, a movement away from sugary drinks, and a reduction of Americans who ate breakfast, which is the main time a person would consume orange juice. Some consumption will always occur, they say, because you need orange juice for a good mimosa

How orange juice landed on every American breakfast table

Unless you drink coffee, orange juice certainly appears as part of the iconic breakfast image. But how it got there is not questioned too much. It takes on an almost natural quality. It seems to have its basis, as an article in The Atlantic describes, in the need to provide American soldiers during World War II with vitamin C in a manner they would actually consume. America's desire for lots of orange juice found its heyday in the invention of frozen concentrate orange juice that tasted sweet and kept well on the shelves of the then-novel supermarkets.

However, like other utopian visions of that time, orange juice took a turn to the overly artificial. Gizmodo reported in 2011 that the reason orange juice always tastes exactly the same from one carton to the next is that brands developed their own orange juice flavorings. This is needed because to preserve oranges long enough to make orange juice, you need to deoxygenate them, which removes their flavor. A clarifying email sent by the Florida Department of Citrus to HuffPost stated that during processing "natural components... may be separated from the orange juice... [These] natural orange components may be added back to the orange juice for optimal flavor."

It's for this reason that the supposedly healthy drink is, as Business Insider writes, more akin to Coke than a fresh orange.