Citrus fruit produced from HLB-affected trees are green and taste bitter. They are usually not suitable for either the fresh market or juice market because they have a lower Brix/acid ratio.
Mitigation strategies can cause less fruit drop and help citrus trees survive. However, they triple production costs, which increases the pressure for citrus growers to have a competitive enough citrus price to make a profit.
Decreased quality and quantity caused by HLB, together with the dramatic decline in consumer demand for orange juice (OJ) in recent years, has caused hardship for the Florida citrus industry. Therefore, developing reliable strategies that increase the production of HLB-affected citrus trees and improve fruit quality and consumer preference to raise the market share is urgent.
The LB8-9 cultivar Sugar Belle® is a mandarin (tangerine) hybrid developed by the breeding team at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Citrus Research and Education Center. It is recognized as the most HLB-tolerant cultivar currently available. Sugar Belle® is being planted more in Florida because of its HLB tolerance, unique flavor and appealing appearance. Fresh Sugar Belle® is seedless and has ideal qualities for the fresh market.
Nevertheless, Florida’s fresh fruit business is consistently around 20% of the entire citrus business. Considering the saturation of the fresh market, citrus growers and juice processors are highly interested in utilizing Sugar Belle® fruits in juice processing. Sugar Belle® has good flavor and fruit quality. It meets consumer preference, driving a potential increase in consumer demand. Therefore, blending Sugar Belle® juice in OJ processing can potentially be a promising solution for both decreased production and consumption of OJ.
UF/IFAS researchers recently conducted two consumer studies to examine the potential of using Sugar Belle® in blended citrus juice. Two typical sweet orange cultivars were selected for comparison: Hamlin orange and Valencia orange. Five different combinations of juice samples were processed and evaluated in each study.
In the study conducted in spring 2021, 100% Sugar Belle® juice, 100% Hamlin juice, 90% Hamlin and 10% Sugar Belle® blended juice, 50% Hamlin and 50% Sugar Belle® blended juice, and 100% commercially available not-from-concentrate (NFC) juice were consumed and evaluated by 78 sensory panelists.
A study conducted in summer 2021 examined Valencia orange instead of Hamlin in juice blending. Similarly, 100% Sugar Belle® juice, 100% Valencia juice, 90% Valencia and 10% Sugar Belle® blended juice, 50% Valencia and 50% Sugar Belle® blended juice, and the same 100% commercial NFC OJ were prepared and consumed by 61 sensory panelists.
Panelists were prescreened based on their sweet OJ consumption frequency to ensure they are familiar with OJ. Compared to 100% commercial NFC OJ, 50% Hamlin and 50% Sugar Belle® blended juice received …..
Learn more why Consumers Prefer Citrus Juice Blended With Sugar Belle® on Citrus Industry website.