Why does OJ need to be refigerated?
January 14, 2006 11:26 AM   Subscribe

Many grocery stores have only Orange Juice in the refrigerated section, while the other juices sit on an un-refrigerated shelf. What's the deal with that? Why can't the OJ sit on the shelf like every other juice?

I'm looking for an answer more complete than vague references to bacteria and such, which is all I could turn up using Google. Why can't OJ be pasturized like other juices? Or is it pasturized and there's some other issue?
posted by falconred to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
At the grocery store where I work there's orange juice in the case with the milk (and some other juices depending on what we have in stock).

We also have orange juice on the aisles, unrefridgerated, but notably this orange juice comes in a vacuum sealed plastic bottle -- as does every other non-refridgerated juice.

It would seem the common denominator is the carton type -- thing with the blended paper and plastic cartons are refridgerated while the plastic only jugs and bottles are not.

It would be my guess that the carton style juices are kept refridgerated as the plastics are essentially impenetrable, or are comparably impenetrable in relation to the cartons.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 11:36 AM on January 14, 2006

I think it depends on the packaging/pasteurization. All OJ (except the 'fresh,' expensive stuff with the three day shelf life and the warnings about e. coli) is pasteurized, as far as I know, but the packaging is the key difference. Juice in milk-type cartons is 'hot filled,' which isn't totally aseptic, and therefore goes bad, albeit at a slower rate. Some orange juice is aseptically packaged, yeilding a tetra-pak/juice box type package, and it can be stored outside refrigeration. I think the difference is generally marketing. The perception of freshness is important (look at the package: it probably says 'Fresh!' or something like it) and people don't think of asepticly-packaged stuff on the shelf as fresh. Milk can be aseptically pacakged and stored at room temp.--think Parmalat--but it never took off in America.
posted by pullayup at 11:40 AM on January 14, 2006

Oh, sheesh, I forgot bottles existed. Everybody mentally insert the words 'or bottled' into that second to last sentence.
posted by pullayup at 11:43 AM on January 14, 2006

Matt, you should re-check the refrigerated section. Most of the orange juices there also come in large, plastic jugs (as well as paper cartons). Tropicana and Florida's Best, for instance.
There's something else at work here. Perhaps it's just the nature of orange juice that makes it highly perishable? The juices on the regular aisles all seem to be highly processed and clarified. And I'm pretty sure they contain some level of preservatives. I know the Tropicana brand found in the refrigerated case does not contain any preservatives.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:43 AM on January 14, 2006

Most of the orange juices there also come in large, plastic jugs (as well as paper cartons).

but when other juices come in those kinds of plastic jugs, like apple cider sometimes does, it's also refrigerated. The ones that aren't refrigerated are vacuum sealed glass bottles or those soy milk/parmalat style containers, which orange juice isn't normally sold in.
posted by mdn at 11:50 AM on January 14, 2006

I've wondered this, too. Sometimes I see non-refrigerated grapefruit juice, but I think pullyap got it with the bit about heat-filled.
posted by Frank Grimes at 12:02 PM on January 14, 2006

Response by poster: To add to the mystery:

My bottle of orange juice in the fridge says "pasturized" on the back... so why the need for it to be refirgerated in the grocery store? Why not vaccuum seal it?

Maybe it's just a marketing gimmick like pullayup suggests -- if it has to be refrigerated, it must be fresh!
posted by falconred at 12:08 PM on January 14, 2006

Actually, outside of the "how long it lasts" area, I think the answers simple: people want to drink it right away, unlike other juices, which aren't consumed as often (with breakfast, say). For instance, cranberry juice used to always be unrefrigerated until it started being marketed more as a "drink" than just a juice. Now it's available in both, as well as in individual sizes.
posted by Manhasset at 12:10 PM on January 14, 2006

You're assuming that OJ is refrigerated because of some quality of the OJ itself compared to other juices. That assumption probably has nothing to do with the reason why it's refigerated.

Remember that the grocery business is a consignment business, and that shelf space is bought and paid for. If you see 5 shelf-feet of Quaker cereals compared to 10 shelf-feet of General Mills, that's not because some store manager decided that General Mills deserved more space, it's because General Mills bought that much space.

I would imagine in the highly competitive Orange Juice market that some genius believes that already chilled OJ will sell better than unchilled OJ, so they bought space in the refrigerated section. They would likely also put the same juice in other areas of the store just to ensure coverage.
posted by mikel at 12:18 PM on January 14, 2006

When I worked at a perishable warehouse ten (ten? shhesh!) years ago, the OJ that was long-term stored was the stuff in plastic bottles. The cartonized stuff (like a milk container) was part of the dairy warehouse, at another location. I'm thinking it's something to do with pasteurization.
posted by notsnot at 12:43 PM on January 14, 2006

Marketing gimmicks aside (which I agree may be the real reason here), vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is easily oxidized. This chemical reaction is the main reason that this molecule is thought to be good for you, but it probably takes place even in a pasteurized, vacuum-sealed bottle. Keeping the juice cold (and in the dark) would slow this reaction down, leading to more vitamin C in the stuff you drink, and making it taste better (the by-products from oxidation of ascorbic acid probably don't taste good.

If it were just a marketing ploy, then is the juice in the refridgeration section shipped cold, or just put there to lure buyers? I can't believe that shipping costs would be the same for a cold truck and a normal one.
posted by istewart at 12:48 PM on January 14, 2006

Best answer: The way juice is packaged and stored (refrigerated or not) has to do with a combination of preventing harmful contamination (e.g. bacteria through pasteurization) and and preservation of the juice's integrity (taste/color/nutrients/etc). Fresh juice does not last long without being treated -- it has a refrigerated shelf life of about 3 days. The more the juice is treated, the longer it can last. refrigerated juices are sold with a shelf life of ~9 weeks; those not-from-concentrate are pasteurized once, whereas those from-concentrate get the heat treatment twice. Juice that sits on the shelves unrefrigerated is pasteurized twice and has a shelf life of about 6 months, though by that time the integrity would be completely degraded (perfect example). Stores are probably more interested in offering their customers juices at a variety of these stages than they are in being part of a marketing conspiracy.

Generally speaking, the longer the product longevity, the lesser the quality, and the lower the price. But not always, if you consider frozen concentrate. As discussed in The New Best Recipe, p. 653, published by America's Test Kitchen/ Cooks Illustrated:
"... Why does juice made at home from frozen concentrate taste better than prepackaged chilled juice made from concentrate? Heat is the biggest enemy of orange juice. Frozen concentrates and chilled juices not made from concentrate are both pasteurized once at around 195 degrees to eliminate microorganisms and neutralize enzymes that will shorten shelf life. Chilled juices made from concentrate are pasteurized twice, once when the concentrate is made and again when the juice is reconstituted and packaged. This accounts for the lack of fresh-squeezed flavor in chilled juices made from concentrate."

Since 2002, all juice has been required to be pasteurized, in compliance with FDA Juice HACCP regulations The one exception of this is retail producers who provide juice directly to the end-user; this is what allows restaurants and grocery stores to sell their own fresh squeezed. For additional info, see Effect of pasteurization regimes on orange juice flavor and also maybe Odwalla's FAQ on flash-pasteurization.

Further reading:Orange Fruit Processing (pdf), Luis Cisneros-Zevallos, Ph.D., Department of Horticultural Sciences, Texas A&M University
posted by fourstar at 1:39 PM on January 14, 2006

On post, to summarize: juice can be treated to lengthen shelf-life, but the more it is treated, the less it tastes like the source fruit. The combination of product offerings reflects the costs of storing juice that has been treated a certain way.
posted by fourstar at 1:53 PM on January 14, 2006

Thanks, fourstar; that was interesting.

Since 2002, all juice has been required to be pasteurized, in compliance with FDA Juice HACCP regulations

If you recall, Odwalla built this giant rapid-distribution network to get very, very expensive, prettily-labeled, unpasteurized juice to their special little refrigerators in stores. Unfortunately, some of their stuff got contaminated with the E. coli O157:H7, which makes your intestinal lining slough in a pool of blood and causes your red blood cells to burst and your kidneys to shut down. No one likes that, so the FDA got proactive and shut 'em all down.

Surprisingly, Odwalla is still charging the same prices for pasteurized juice and doesn't seem to be in any danger of going under.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:14 PM on January 14, 2006

Hmm... but what about soymilk?
posted by electroboy at 6:54 PM on January 14, 2006

Thanks, fourstar. Overall, what does and doesn't need to be refrigerated seems to be much more largely dependent on context than I would've thought.
posted by soyjoy at 8:35 PM on January 14, 2006

mikel writes "Remember that the grocery business is a consignment business, and that shelf space is bought and paid for. If you see 5 shelf-feet of Quaker cereals compared to 10 shelf-feet of General Mills, that's not because some store manager decided that General Mills deserved more space, it's because General Mills bought that much space."

as a grocery store owner/manager... you aren't correct... stores like Wal Mart, etc put whatever is cheapest on the shelves... stores like Hy-Vee, Econo Foods, Top, Albertson's, Safeway, Rainbow, Cub, etc... are usually self-governed when it comes to that. Different areas sell different foods, and grocery stores must be able to accomodate for that... For instance, in a city with a football team, you'll sell more baked beans, cheese, salsa and beer during the fall, however, baseball teams don't influence sales nearly as much. Grocery stores located in residential areas must stock things a better supply than stores in a commercial area. Also, economics also plays a role... if you have a large amount of lower-class customers, you need to make sure that you have every WIC (government welfare program for women with infant children) item. However, if your customer is usually higher class, you need to have more luxury items.

There are always decisions on what groceries to carry, and your local store gets to make decisions on how everything is layed out. There are many many managers that don't care, and the corporation almost always has templates and guides for these managers.

That said, Orange Juice is placed with milk, and is considered a breakfast item. It will be located between the milk and the bacon or eggs. It isn't something people usually go to the store FOR, however, if they go to the store for warm breakfast materials, and they pass by orange juice, they'll often pick it up, because "Orange juice sounded nice with this breakfast I'm spending time to make, and it was on sale!" (one brand or another should ALWAYS be on sale)
posted by hatsix at 12:01 PM on January 15, 2006

ikkyu2, you indirectly answered a question I have had for years regarding the change in quality of Odwalla juice. Thanks!
posted by shoepal at 8:15 PM on January 15, 2006

I believe SunnyDelight pays to have their "juice" in the frozen section, though obviously it doesn't need it, so marketing is probably a part of the eqasion.
posted by xammerboy at 10:55 AM on January 16, 2006

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