ORANGE juice is not in the same tricky packaging league as prawns, breaded chicken nuggets or tinned tomatoes, where water, breadcrumbs and tomato juice can make up a disgraceful percentage of the pack weight. Even so, caterers should beware: the juice may come in the same-shaped carton, but often it isn't all the same product inside.
Often, the juice within a single carton isn't all from the same country. The three main orange production regions of the world for juice extraction are Brazil, the southern states of the USA and Israel. Juice from each of these countries has different qualities of colour, taste, texture and sweetness.
A juice processor may choose to source from a single country, but more commonly a juice will be a blend of two or more juices. This keeps continuity of taste, texture and colour of a particular brand.
The oranges are squeezed in the country of origin. The skin and pith are separated out and the juice concentrated down to a sticky marmalade, primarily to make it better to store and transport. When it arrives at the final processor, the concentrate is reconstituted and packed.
There are five main product divisions in the packaged orange juice business.
Fresh-sqeezed is the whole orange crushed to yield all its liquid. It does not go through any concentration process, though may be blended. After packing it is kept chilled.
Fresh-squeezed, pasteurised is a relative newcomer to the orange juice market, designed to fit between the taste qualities of fresh, and the longer shelf life of UHT (ultra-heat treated), made from concentrate juice. These juices have a chilled shelf life of up to six weeks because of the pasteurisation treatment.
This type appeals to the quality end of catering, because the drawbacks of fresh-squeezed has always been price and short shelf life. While the price of the new juice remains relatively high, at about £1.40 per litre, the extended shelf life is the reason why those in this niche market are predicting rapid growth.
Prominent in this field is Tropicana, which pasteurises a pure Florida juice, and Catering Services Supplies, which imports an Israeli juice.
Concentrated chilled is a reconstituted juice, which is then pasteurised.
Concentrate UHT treated subjects the reconstituted juice to ultra-heat treatment immediately before packing, making the juice suitable for storage at room temperature, with a shelf life of up to one year.
As with all juices, once opened, the juice has to be kept chilled, and should be consumed within three days. Some juices for the catering market are ambient stable, made from concentrate, but still requiring a final dilution before serving.
These juices are typically used in high-volume operations or where juice dispensing machines are used.
Orange juice drink is a much-diluted, usually sweetened orange drink more akin to an orange cordial than a pure orange juice. But in some cash& carry warehouses and most retail stores it is positioned alongside pure orange juices.
NURDIN & PEACOCK PRICEWISE
This juice won universal praise for its colour, which for most of the judging team ranged from acceptable to very good.
The panel also thought there was a good orange smell to the juice. Where it drew criticism was on the body, which all the tasters found to be too thin. There was also a strong opinion that the juice was tart to the point of astringency.
BOOKER C&C FAMILY CHOICE
The taste panel had little positive to say about this juice. The words bland, thin, artificial flavour, chemical taste, kept recurring. The feeling was of a juice that best suited where price, rather than taste, was the dominant feature of the buying decision.
This was a popular juice with the panel, who found no feature which prompted universal criticism. A couple of tasters felt it leaned towards orange squash in flavour, but generally the verdict was of a well-produced, if slightly neutral, juice that would neither offend nor inspire.
This was overall favourite with the tasting panel. They thought the colour had just the right appeal, its body was exactly what they liked and it delivered the right balance of sweetness and acidity for a good orange juice. The only criticism specifically noted was that two of the tasters described this brand's odour as "slightly chemical".
This was judged by the tasting panel as being a very good juice for catering use, and was summed up as offering nothing too pronounced, but certainly not dull or bland. There was a feeling that a slightly less sweet product would be preferable at breakfast. Another point of agreement was that the smell was very good, definitely orangey.
This was greeted with enthusiasm for its colour and smell which were both judged to be very natural. But it drew wide criticism as being too sweet for a breakfast juice. There was also criticism that the flavour of oranges didn't come through after the very good smell and that proved to be a disappointment.
This was another favourite with the tasting panel and scored highly in the final results. The flavour was good, as was the sweetness and body. The juice would have finished even higher in the final table but for the colour, which several judges remarked looked pale and slightly watery.
This was not well received by the tasting panel who all remarked that it was too thick, almost soupy in its consistency. It earned good marks both for its colour and for its smell. But the authentic taste of oranges was missing, said the panel, with one taster remarking the product tasted almost like sherbet, and another said it had a distinctly artificial taste.
This is a juice which requires further dilution, in the ratio 1:5, before service. It finished bottom of the table, with a low score resulting from criticisms that it was too sweet and lacked either genuine orange smell or flavour when compared with other juices in the tasting. Where it did score very well was on the body, which all the tasters said they liked.
Tropicana has recently targeted the foodservice industry with a pasteurised, freshly-squeezed juice. This product prompted a mixed reaction from the tasters. The majority praised it in almost every department while two found it very unpleasant - resulting in the juice finishing with a low placing in the final pecking order. The most common criticism voiced was that its colour was both light and cloudy, almost milky in appearance, which the tasters did not like. n