Opportunities are ripe for Australian citrus juice
By Laura Browning
Premium prices for not-from-profit concentrate juice
Juice from local citrus is growing in popularity
Export and domestic market opportunities
NOW is the time for Australia’s citrus juice industry to take advantage of a changing consumer environment in China, said Grant Day from food processing machinery company JBT.
Grant told Citrus Australia’s inaugural juice forum earlier this year that a rising middle class in China is looking for not-from-concentrate juice, which is not produced in large quantities locally in China.
“China is a larger citrus growing region than Brazil, but most of it is in mandarin and tangerine and pretty much all of it goes to fresh market for eating,” said Grant.
“If they’re looking for juice not made from concentrate and they’re not growing varieties like Valencia’s locally, where are they going to get not from-concentrate juice from?”
“Australia already has channels for fresh citrus going to China; there is the opportunity to ride on the back of those channels with not-from-concentrate juice.”
JBT’s presence in the juice industry is far-reaching, extracting over 75% of the global production of citrus juices. At the juice forum in Leeton, Grant drew on JBT’s knowledge to provide growers with some insight into juice trends globally and how they might give growers confidence in the process.
Grant drew a comparison with current events in Florida, where horticultural issues like greening and canker have slashed orange production from a peak of 245 million boxes to a forecasted 45 million, opening a large market opportunity for Mexico.
“If you look at the split in plantation rates in Mexico between what is a juicing fruit and what is a fruit going to the fresh market, you can see that their juicing proportion is growing enormously,” he said.
“They are planting juicing varietal oranges to fill a market opportunity that is emerging in the US, and it’s paying off.”
Grant described a multitude of ways for juice to be exported overseas.
“Processing and filling technologies can be combined in different ways so it’s important for us at JBT to understand what it is that a customer is looking to achieve,” he said.
“Customers may be looking to export primary processed juice in bulk or value added in bottles, and both options can be via refrigerated or ambient distribution.”
Opportunities presenting domestically
An increasing international and domestic consumer focus on healthier food and beverages bodes well for not-from-concentrate juice, which is the more premium product. JBT’s research indicates that Australians are changing the type of juice that they are drinking. Premium juice squeezed from local oranges is growing, while juice made from reconstituted imported concentrate is declining — opening a local market opportunity.
“If you were to look at the ambient aisles in the supermarket you’d see that citrus juice is selling for $1 per litre, and it is made from imported concentrate,” Grant said.
“Once you get to the more premium not-from-concentrate in the refrigerated aisle it’s about seven dollars for two litres and then if you go even further up the value chain to completely unprocessed and freshly squeezed, you’re looking at ten to twelve dollars for two litres.”
“In Australia, we could drink a lot less juice and it still be an enormous growth opportunity because most of the juice that we are drinking is not made from oranges squeezed in Australia or grown here.”
Safety in diversification
Grant believes that assurance lies in diversification; not just for growers, but also for industry.
“Like anything, having a balanced investment is a good idea,” he said.
“That’s why it’s good that we’ve been able to identify opportunities domestically, Chinese-based and also outside of China but within the region. If one region were to falter, like the Chinese emerging middle class doesn’t continue in the pattern that we’ve seen, then there are other opportunities that can step in.”
“To really capitalise on these opportunities, we need an aligned industry and I think that Citrus Australia are doing a fantastic job of that and we’re definitely starting in the right place. I can’t wait to see what results could come of stronger confidence in the supply chain.”