If you've ever had any kind of orange juice, you're familiar with Minute Maid. The orange and black 6 fl oz can with frozen concentrated juice has shown up in grocery stores and home refrigerators for decades now; you can even find the name on the Houston Astros MLB ballpark. But do you know how Minute Maid got its start? Like many other foods, orange juice concentrate was developed to help keep American troops healthy. Here's the story of Minute Maid orange juice.
During World War II, we were shipping a lot of food overseas to the troops. The federal government started developing shelf-stable food and beverage items that were easier to ship long distances and stayed good in different environments. Since it was impossible to keep real fruit juice fresh over those long distances, they looked for another way to deliver the beverage.
We've long known the connection of vitamin C to prevent diseases like scurvy, so troops were given lemon juice crystals to eat. However, the taste was so bad that many soldiers and sailors didn't eat them. Food scientists at the National Research Corporation worked with the Florida Department of Citrus to improve the delivery of daily value of vitamin C to U.S. troops, something that would taste good. They developed dehydrated, powdered orange juice as an alternative.
The Florida Foods Corporation won the contract to make the powdered juice, but the war ended first. By 1946, the company had turned the idea of powdered juice into a frozen concentrate; the company was renamed as Vacuum Foods Corporation that sold a frozen concentrated orange juice product by the name of Minute Maid. In 1949, the Vacuum Foods adopted the name of its star product and became the Minute Maid Corporation.
The name Minute Maid was created by a Boston marketing firm to give the customer the idea of convenience and speed; the company also developed a national radio campaign featuring Bing Crosby to promote the new fruit drink and sales of the frozen beverage skyrocketed. In 1948, they had three plants making the concentrate, but that number grew to 10 by 1949.
Minute Maid was purchased by the Coca-Cola Company in 1960; seven years later, the company joined with Duncan Foods to form the Coca-Cola Foods division, headquartered in Houston, Texas.
In 1980, Coca-Cola added Minute Maid lemonade and fruit punch to its juice drink list. Today, Minute Maid makes a whole range of products, including apple juice, orange juice with added calcium and vitamin D, Minute Maid Light Pink Lemonade and a pulp-free version of their popular product.
In 2002, the company partnered with the Houston Astros, and the Astros' ballpark name was officially changed to Minute Maid Park.
While the original orange juice powder never made it to World War II troops, the U.S. military continues to work with food scientists and brands to create healthy, shelf-stable food for those serving overseas, including pizza, which you can read more about here.