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70 years since Tropicana pioneered mass production of Florida orange juice

Jack Andersen/Getty Images(CHICAGO) — For 70 years, Tropicana has been adding to the American breakfast by getting freshly-squeezed orange juice from Florida into grocery stores across the U.S.

The brand was created by Italian immigrant Anthony Rossi, who developed flash pasteurization and pioneered orange juice transport in 1970 via train from Florida to New York.

“He figured out how to bring OJ to people beyond just where it’s grown and so this is a story that we’re really proud of, proud that it was an idea born here in the U.S., and we’re proud that we continue to make it here in the U.S.,” said Becca Kerr, the vice president and general manager of Tropicana North America.

All of the oranges for Tropicana orange juice are grown in the U.S., the vast majority coming from Florida. The company uses Valencia oranges, as well as others, working with more than 100 growers and more than 500 groves, many owned by families. In 1988, PepsiCo bought Tropicana Products, Inc.

The processing plant operates 24 hours, seven days a week, employing employs 900 workers. There are 2,000 to 2,500 workers who pick oranges.

“The pride that you feel when you walk in our plant is palpable. They’re so happy and excited that they’re the ones making this product that you’re buying on your shelf, that you’re putting on your kitchen table,” Kerr said. “The work that they do squeezing the juice, it’s just like you would do squeezing it at home, but on a much bigger scale. And we’re making it really easy for you. It’s just oranges in there.”

The processing plant can make 2.5 million cartons a day. An average of 48 million oranges are picked daily and, eight hours later, they are juiced. The harvesting district runs from Orlando to the Everglades and the harvest season extends from Thanksgiving through Memorial Day.

“‘Made in America’ means a lot because I’ve been drinking Tropicana juice for over 50 years,” said Mitch Willis, senior manager of global procurement. “I know that my community, where I grew up, was part of Tropicana. My friends were part of Tropicana.”

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