Nasty flu season boosts sales of orange juice

Americans are downing plenty of juice, though questions still linger over whether vitamin C actually helps fight colds.

By Jonathan Berr Feb 15, 2013 1:48PM
Image: Parents and children eating at table -- Maria Teijeiro, Digital Vision, Getty ImagesAmericans are increasingly turning to an old friend as they battle the worst cold and flu season in years: orange juice.

During the four weeks that ended Jan. 19, U.S. orange juice sales rose 5.5% by volume and 7.4% by revenue from a year earlier. It was the first increase in two years, according to Nielsen data cited by The Wall Street Journal. Sales rose even though the prices for a gallon of orange juice are 1.8% higher this year, the paper said.

Orange juice is chock full of vitamin C, which many people believe helps them get over cold and flu symptoms. The idea was made famous by the late Nobel laureate Linus Pauling. Unfortunately, there seems to be a disagreement among scientists about whether this conventional wisdom is true. 

"There's very little proof that vitamin C actually has any effect on the common cold," WebMD notes. Science Daily offers vitamin C a qualified endorsement, noting that a study of young competitive swimmers found that the supplement halved the duration of colds in males but had no effect on females. It's unclear why that was the case. Moreover, while vitamin C has a "biological effect" on cold, taking it every day to shorten infrequent colds "does not seem to be reasonable," according to the website.

Scientific issues aside, the flu season is a boon to the orange juice industry. Coca-Cola (KO), parent of Minute Maid, and PepsiCo (PEP), which owns Tropicana, are among the companies that stand to benefit.

Older people, who are often more vulnerable to illness, seem especially keen on buying the product. As the Journal notes, the elderly account for more than 20% of orange-juice purchases. Even as the cold and flu season comes to an end, orange-juice futures prices will remain strong because of worries about supply constraints caused by dry weather and citrus-tree disease in Florida, where 70% of U.S. oranges are grown, the paper says.

--Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.


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Tags: Beverages
Feb 19, 2013 2:45PM

Looking to defend yourself against the flu? Check out Henry the Hand and follow his 4 Principles of Hand Awareness at . And remember, do NOT touch the T Zone (eyes, nose, or mouth). 

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