Read a synopsis of a Q&A with Shannon Shepp, the executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus.

A recent interview with Shannon Shepp, the executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus, touched on marketing orange juice, demand for citrus products, foreign OJ imports, and industry challenges and opportunities, according to a Citrus Industry article. See a synopsis of the interview below.

Florida Department of Citrus Q&A

The following is an excerpt from the Q&A with Shannon Shepp, with the Florida Department of Citrus:

Q: How is the extra tax on juice oranges this season being used to help growers?

A: “Believe me, we know how precious those dollars are today and we believe in accountability. All, and I mean every single cent, of those funds are being used to broaden our health and wellness messaging to consumers. We are expanding into additional e-commerce partners with the addition of Kroger. We are increasing the size of our target market of lapsed buyers, and we are using digital technology to reach category managers at retail to show them why Florida citrus makes sense for their margins.”

Q: Additional imports of foreign OJ in recent years have hurt Florida growers’ juice orange prices. What will be the impact of imports this season?

A: “I wish I knew the ultimate answer to that question. When demand increases as it has this past year, the supply challenge follows. While it makes sense to secure responsible inventory, we are 100 percent focused on the premium nature of Florida. With 80 percent of our juice oranges going to not-from-concentrate, that market is a natural priority for us…”

Q: Will the recent surge in OJ consumption have a positive impact on Florida orange grower returns?

A: “That is most certainly our goal. Our responsibility is to motivate consumers to buy Florida solids. We recognize those solids are sold in many forms on the grocery store shelves. We believe Florida’s premium quality contributes substantially to the taste orange juice drinkers love, and it definitely factors into their willingness to pay for what they buy at retail.”

Q: What are the biggest opportunities for Florida’s citrus industry from a marketing/sales standpoint?

A: “We are in an era of enhanced technology and we are all craving content, especially content that is positive. The story of Florida citrus is pure, it is positive, and it is being delivered to a world focused on health and wellness. Our story has not changed, but the environment in which it is received is almost literally a whole new world.”

Q: Where do you see the Florida citrus industry in 10 years?

A: “I love this question. First, if you haven’t heard me say it, let me start with “I believe in Florida citrus!” My view of the years ahead of this industry is very optimistic. We will continue to face the challenges of Mother Nature, pest and disease, and a sometimes fickle consumer. We are seeing expanding innovation in the battle against greening, our economic impact on the state of Florida remains great, and we are in an upswing in consumer demand. We’ll go through some turbulence in this next decade, but I have no doubt Florida citrus will stand strong and persevere to see many more.”