A brief history of red juice

Before the 1980s, Sicilian blood oranges and their juice were not very cost-effective; for this reason, Italian Institutions provided incentives to turn blood orange cultivars into blonde orange cultivars, and funded projects to bleach red orange juice. This because in the fresh products market, red oranges were only squeezed, while product juice transformation industries had to bleach the majority of them. In 1984, thanks to the inspired idea of its management, a company in the province of Catania, Ortogel, which produced frozen fruits and vegetables, turned its plant into a citrus fruit transformation facility, and started producing and selling frozen Sicilian blood orange juice. The momentum was created by selling natural Blood Orange juice – thawed through chilled dispensers – in all the Autogrill cafés of the Italian highway network.
The product was very successful, both in terms of sales, and in terms of promotions to Italian and foreign consumers, who had the chance to taste the natural Sicilian red orange juice. Selling frozen blood orange juice in the large-scale distribution was not as successful as in the Autogrill cafés, because orange juice consumption is impulsive, and when consumers open their fridge, they want something ready to be drank, not something that needs to be thawed. In 1990, a yoghurt company developed, with the help of a famous professional from Messina, a mild natural blood orange pasteurization process, and started selling it in the chilled range – with a 45 day expiration date – with great success.

In 1992, a butter company followed the same example, and the following year a milk multinational company invested in this field with millions of Euro in advertisement, boosting consumption in the large-scale distribution sector.
Starting from 1995, following the Italian success, the majority of European juice brands became interested in SICILIAN BLOOD ORANGE juice. Following the staggering growth in demand of natural blood orange juice – from one million litres/year in 1991 to 50 million litres/year in 2003 – most Sicilian citrus transformation companies started producing it.

Following the 2008/2009 citrus cultivation transformation campaign, a new regulation for citrus cultivation Community funds came into force, with funding per citrus grove hectares directly to citrus growers, and the end of funding to citrus transformation factories. This event – well know for many years – caused an increase of the citrus fruit costs for factories, impossible to transfer completely in the juice selling price, because the market is affected by the prices set by the other producing countries. Ortogel’s management – aware that sooner or later Community funding to industrial citrus transformation would have ended – set in place a strategic plan in 1995, to be ready to tackle the new situation. This plan, implemented in the past fifteen years, has helped Ortogel become one of the most competitive citrus transformation companies, thanks to: – Enhanced production and storage capacity, and up-to-date system plants. – High level of automation for the majority of the production stages. – Enhanced by-products, by introducing innovative processes to create new products on the market – Enhanced main product (NFC juice), by improving the final product packaging systems for end consumers.

Blood oranges in a nutshell

Rossa di Sicilia oranges are unique, and they account for less than 1.5% of global orange production. The uniqueness of ROSSA DI SICILIA ORANGES derives from the peculiar microclimate of some special areas, in the province of Catania, Siracusa, Enna and Ragusa, where strong daily temperature changes in winter – attributed by some to Mount Etna – promote the ripening and colour of the blood orange cultivar (Moro, Tarocco and Sanguinello).

The high quality of blood orange pulp and juice – compared to the widely available blond oranges – provides a healthy product to end consumers.
The quality of these products is obtained through:

  • the content of Vitamin C is 30-40% higher, on average, than the other citrus varieties;

  • their fragrance, taste, slight acidity and aromas differentiate them from blonde fruits, which are more bland and tasteless, in comparison;

  • they are easy to peel and divide, making them ideal for certain end consumer categories (students, workers, fast-food clients, etc.) that consume a low quantity of natural products and fresh fruit in general;

  • the presence of certain substances, such as anthocyanins, flavonoid vitamins, terpenes, beta-carotene, positively affect the wellness of end consumers, because they have antioxidant effects, stimulate the immune system, help prevent cancer, provide calcium, magnesium and potassium, help detox the body through organic acids, and help regulate bowel movements, thanks to the presence of soluble and insoluble dietary fibres.

Blood orange sector

Sicilia 2010 campaign estimate
Citrus cultivation area Ha 35.000
Production Ton 700.000
Transformed production (*) (**) Ton 200.000