People Are Finally Buying Orange Juice Again — Because of This Year’s Merciless Flu

Orange juice is “healthy” again. Photo: Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images

It took nothing short of America’s worst flu outbreak in almost a decade to make people excited about orange juice. Sales spiked last month for the first time in almost five years, according to Nielsen data — an increase of almost one percent between the end of December and January 20. It’s a big deal for Big OJ because for the better part of a decade, the industry has been suffering through the same crisis as soda makers: Consumers want healthier, less-sugary beverages (the bubblier and more LaCroix-like, the better), plus all of the energy drinks, bottled nitro coffees, and kombucha out there have made boring fruit juice seem even more boring.

How bad is it? Stats show that America’s OJ market has crumbled to half of what it was in 2001. But the record amount of influenza right now is forcing people to take desperate measures, evidently megadosing on the most visible, available vitamin C delivery system, and that freak-out has boosted the juice’s sales for the first time since April 2013.

One Kansas woman tells The Wall Street Journal today that, as far as she and her husband are concerned, OJ is nothing short of a miracle drug: “Every time he feels like he is about to get sick, he gets a gallon of cheap orange juice and drinks the whole thing,” she explains. “None of us have had any symptoms of illness.”

Science — often something of a buzzkill — of course doesn’t really back this up: Vitamin C is shown to help with the severity of a cold if it’s already in the body when symptoms begin, but even then, 12 ounces of OJ contain more calories and grams of sugar than a Snickers bar. A glass of Emergen-C, for the sake of comparison, provides 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C, additional B vitamins, and 35 calories.

The Flu Epidemic Is Actually Spiking Orange-Juice Sales