How do you make orange juice? Simple! Squeeze oranges and drink. How do big box companies make orange juice? Complicated! Squeeze oranges, remove oxygen, re-flavor the now flavorless orange juice with artificially orange "flavor packs" and...drink? Uhh...
I never thought about it but it makes incredible sense now. Orange juice from Tropicana, Simply Orange, Minute Maid, Florida's Natural, etc.—they're all ridiculously consistent in their flavor. And the trick isn't to get the most delicious tasting oranges but rather to create their own unique artificial flavor.
It all starts with the stripping of the oxygen. Once the juice is squeezed and stored in gigantic vats, they start removing oxygen. Why? Because removing oxygen from the juice allows the liquid to keep for up to a year without spoiling. But! Removing that oxygen also removes the natural flavors of oranges. Yeah, it's all backwards. So in order to have OJ actually taste like oranges, drink companies hire flavor and fragrance companies, the same ones that make perfumes for Dior, to create these "flavor packs" to make juice taste like, well, juice again. A 2009 report says:
The formulas vary to give a brand's trademark taste. If you're discerning you may have noticed Minute Maid has a candy like orange flavor. That's largely due to the flavor pack Coca-Cola has chosen for it. Some companies have even been known to request a flavor pack that mimics the taste of a popular competitor, creating a "hall of mirrors" of flavor packs. Despite the multiple interpretations of a freshly squeezed orange on the market, most flavor packs have a shared source of inspiration: a Florida Valencia orange in spring.
The flavor packs aren't listed in the ingredients because they're technically derived from "orange essence and oil", whatever the hell that means. So just remember, when you buy Orange Juice next time, even though it says 100% juice (which it is), it's still 100% artificially flavored. [Food Renegade via Hacker News]