Not so Simply Orange juice

by on February 6, 2013 at 2:34 pm in Food and Drink | Permalink

Simply Orange juice is actually not all that simple. The taste of the the Coca-Cola-owned brand is governed by a complex algorithm that allows for the 600+ juice flavors to be tweaked throughout the year to ensure consistency.

From Jason Kottke, here is more.  And from The Atlantic, here is further explanation:

The algorithm is designed to accept any contingency that might affect manufacturing, from weather patterns to shifts in the global economy, and make adjustments to the manufacturing process accordingly. Built into the model is a breakdown of the 600-plus flavors that are in orange juice that are tweaked throughout the year to keep flavor consistent and in line with consumer tastes. Coke even sucks the oxygen out of the juice when they send it to be mixed so that they can keep it around for a year or more to balance out other batches. Doug Bippert, Coke’s vice president of business acceleration, calls it “a flight simulator for [Coke's] juice business.” (Funnily enough Delta uses the same algorithm to balance its books.) “If we have a hurricane or a freeze,” Bippert added, “we can quickly replan the business in 5 or 10 minutes just because we’ve mathematically modeled it.”

Dan Weber February 6, 2013 at 3:06 pm

If the product doesn’t say “Orange Juice” it’s not orange juice. Shoppers know this, although they might have to stop for a second to realize it.

rpl February 6, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Huh? Simply Orange does say “Orange Juice,” right there on the label. The issue, as explained in the gizmodo link, is that orange juice doesn’t keep all that well, and the processes they use to preserve it pretty much destroys the flavor, so they have to add it back artificially. If you don’t want that, then your only real option is to squeeze it yourself or to buy the stuff they squeeze on-site in the grocery store. It’s way better than the packaged juice, but also a lot more expensive.

Urso February 6, 2013 at 4:03 pm

I’m more intrigued by the fact that it’s a mix of fresh juice and months-old juice that’s been sitting in a vat since last year. Like a blended scotch.

MD February 6, 2013 at 5:33 pm

I only drink single barrel orange juice with branch water ice-cubes.

Gil February 7, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Passe – single barrel Brazillian tangerine is the new OJ

mkt February 7, 2013 at 6:09 am

Yeah, John McPhee wrote about this decades ago in his book “Oranges”. When someone got the bright idea of concentrating and freezing orange juice, they had great expectations. But when they reconstituted it, it tasted like “sugar water with an aspirin in it” (approximate quote)i, i.e. sweet, and sour, and with no orange flavor at all. Orange juice sellers have always had to add orange flavorings to their orange juice … or sell it really fast.

Donny February 6, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Evidence is showing that Orange juice and other fruit juices are just as bad for you as soda. Basically the same amount of sugar in both, as well as type 2 diabetes risks.

Sigivald February 6, 2013 at 4:26 pm

So, not bad for you at all in sensible quantities, yes.

Greg Rehmke February 6, 2013 at 4:06 pm

The future conversation: “Hmmm, the Simply Orange juice tastes funny. Maybe there was a virus?”

efp February 6, 2013 at 4:06 pm

As far as I can tell, the big outrage is that they actually use MATH. Off with their ‘eads.

somaguy February 6, 2013 at 4:40 pm

There’s outrage? Seems pretty sensible to me. Pretty clever actually, minimize cost while maintaining user experience in a changing environment. It’s like, exactly what I want.

Roy February 6, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Product consistency is the true marvel of our age. What started with beer and scotch in the nineteenth century has certainly progressed a long way, but we still have a long way to go. If only I could count on every McDonald’s product to taste the same in every location, I would probably eat there more often.

Bill February 6, 2013 at 4:19 pm

This is an example of why there is no great stagnation.

Process controls, algorithms, testing instruments–all minor advances in the field–combine to give you uniform orange juice which would be otherwise unattainable.

Not saying the optimum, consistent, point is to my taste.

Ricardo February 7, 2013 at 7:13 am

That doesn’t exactly argue against TGS. The point isn’t that the people working in these fields are not extremely clever and are doing things that would have been difficult to imagine 30 or 40 years ago. Rather, the point is that these high-IQ experts are being employed to… make orange juice.

Alex Godofsky February 7, 2013 at 9:47 am

Orange juice is delicious!

dismalist February 6, 2013 at 8:07 pm

A “food-like” substance.

DocMerlin February 6, 2013 at 8:20 pm

No, its just orange juice.

Scott February 6, 2013 at 9:50 pm

_Oranges_ meets _The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed_

Shane M February 6, 2013 at 10:22 pm

I thought “from concentrate” was real orange juice and that the “not from concentrate” on the label was an indicator that it was not real orange juice. Had no idea the “not from concentrate” was preferred.

Saturos February 7, 2013 at 3:09 am

You’ve been missing out…

Saturos February 6, 2013 at 10:52 pm

I’m not from America, does this brand actually taste good?

Saturos February 6, 2013 at 11:02 pm

Does this process also get used in other companies, such as Heinz? And what brand does Magnus Carlsen drink?

IVV February 7, 2013 at 8:43 am

The wine industry does this a lot, but in a different way. There’s a stable flavor profile that is tried to be reached, and there are strong attempts to maintain it through blending different tanks of wine with characteristics that change with varietal, vintage, terroir, etc. The big difference is that the blend is always actual fluid wine, and not flavor packets–although I suppose there are questions when different versions of oak barrel aging are considered.

Note that I’m talking about the popularly priced and value price points (the cheap wine) and not higher-end products where flavor differences between bottlings are celebrated.

I used to work for a major winery. I know all about this.

IVV February 7, 2013 at 8:45 am

I think Simply Orange is good, nothing special. To me, it’s more “not worth the price point” than good or bad. It’s expensive.

Owen February 7, 2013 at 6:04 am

Oooh, an algorithm! Sounds complicated! All this does is remind me of a fantastic New Yorker article from a few years ago on the flavor industry (http://raffikhatchadourian.com/givaudan.html). The takeaway point for me was that the distinction between artificial and natural is almost entirely arbitrary… any mass-distributed beverage nowadays had its flavor synthesized in a laboratory. Moreover, a natural “lemon flavor,” for example, does not need to come from a lemon itself, as long as the actual source of that chemical is natural. Lemon gets most of its flavoring and odor from the chemical citral, which is also found in a Southeast Asian shrub called Litsea cubeba. Much of the natural lemon flavoring in your beverages comes from these plants in China and Indonesia, therefore, and not from lemons.

Ray Lopez February 7, 2013 at 6:25 am

More OJ trivia: more than a decade ago, an up-and-coming young US chess grandmaster named Kata Kamsky (who took time off to become a medical doctor, but now is back playing professional chess), had a pugilistic dad who accused another up-and-coming GM, UK’s Nigel Short, of trying to poison his son with a glass of orange juice left on the table. All accounts indicate the accusation was absurd, but it was a tempest in a beverage cup.

Vinny Ross February 7, 2013 at 8:39 am

The original article was published in Businessweek, here’s the link:
http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-01-31/coke-engineers-its-orange-juice-with-an-algorithm#r=most%20popular
The AtlanticWire piece is just a re-telling.

(Not That) Bill O'Reilly February 7, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Just came here to post that myself. Always a bit disappointed by the rip-offs.

Joe Smith February 7, 2013 at 5:28 pm

“It requires analyzing up to 1 quintillion decision variables to consistently deliver the optimal blend”

I don’t think that “quintillion” means what he thinks it means.

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