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Making Orange Juice Taste Even Better

By Alfredo Flores
September 15, 2004

Producing reconstituted orange juice that tastes as good as the fresh-squeezed product is the goal of Agricultural Research Service scientists in Winter Haven, Fla. The key is finding the blend of flavor compounds--well over 40 of them--that impart the taste that most consumers prefer.

The scientists are based at the ARS Citrus and Subtropical Products Laboratory. ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.

Kevin Goodner, who leads the project, is working with laboratory research leader Elizabeth Baldwin and research associate Anne Plotto to develop information about the thresholds of so-called flavor impact aroma compounds that make fresh-squeezed orange juice taste so good. A threshold is the level at which a compound can be detected by smell or taste.

Florida growers annually harvest an average of more than 200 million 90-pound boxes of oranges. About 80 percent of the oranges are processed, mostly into juice.

Juice processors generally squeeze the fresh oranges and use evaporators to remove much of the water. Condensed juice is easier and cheaper to transport or to freeze. While the evaporative process also strips off the aroma compounds responsible for the juice's fresh-squeezed taste, processors capture and blend these compounds into "flavor pack" mixtures. Later, juice-processing companies purchase and add these flavor packs back to frozen, concentrated juice, along with water, before marketing the reconstituted juice.

To help develop higher-quality flavor packs that more closely mimic fresh juice flavor, volunteers have been enlisted to sample reconstituted juices containing various orange juice flavor compound mixtures. Making less-expensive juice with fresh-squeezed flavor would improve the desirability of U.S.-processed orange juice and help it compete in the global marketplace.

Florida's citrus industry employs more than 100,000 people and contributes $8 billion a year to the state's economy.

Read more about this research in the September 2004 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.