By all accounts, it seems to be a pretty bad year for the flu, America’s worst in a decade. It has taken the U.S. by surprise, pitting a weak flu vaccine against particularly virulent strains.
But for one industry, a bad year for the flu can be good – the orange juice industry.
Orange juice sales rose 0.9% to 38.66 million gallons in the four weeks ended Jan. 20. That uptick marked the first year-over-year increase in nearly five years, according to Nielsen, though analysts don’t expect this trend to last much beyond flu season.
This is not the first time this has happened. In 2009, an outbreak of the H1N1 influenza virus, better known as swine flu, helped to boost orange juice sales by 8%.
Since then, consumption has been dwindling over the past decade as a result of greater public awareness of orange juice’s high sugar content and increased competition from drinks such as flavored water, smoothies, and energy drinks. In addition, Florida, the largest producer of oranges for juice in the U.S., had to deal with a direct hit from Hurricane Irma last year and a crop-destroying disease called “citrus greening”, which have pushed up the price of the fruit, making it less competitive from a pricing perspective.
The reason for the increased sales during flu outbreaks is the belief among many orange juice drinkers is that the Vitamin C will help prevent the flu
Scientific research, however, suggests only a tenuous connection between orange juice consumption and flu prevention. According to the National Institutes of Health, there is currently no strong evidence that any natural product is useful against the flu. The best protection, the NIH says, is a flu vaccine.
So the moral of the story is clear.
If it looks like it is going to be a bad flu season, buy some stock in an orange juice company. That way, even if you get the flu, at least you’ll be able to afford the medications, and the orange juice.