What we experienced on our 2021 Juicing Across America Tour
We’ve been getting fresh and practicing safe juicing all across America over the past few months. As the virus ebbs and flows, we have to find a way to get back to business, be safe, and enjoy working. Here’s how we did it and here’s what we learned on our cross-country journey.
The truck at Lake Tahoe
The truck at the Golden Gate Bridge
Firstly, we’d like to thank our new and existing customers for taking the time to meet with us and for allowing us to meet with them and enjoy some fresh orange juice. In some cases, we remained outside and juiced from the truck while for other meetings we went into grocery stores, corporate offices, restaurants, hotels, and equipment dealerships. Inside or outside, we greatly appreciate the invitations and openness to meet in person.
The juice truck in a San Diego parking lot
Amazingly, and we’re humbled by this: some customers told us we were the first face-to-face meetings people have had since March 2020 and, in some cases, we were even the first outside vendors in some corporate offices. We’re truly honored with the trust these customers have given us and we hope these meetings can continue.
Secondly, it was a team effort. Regardless of who was driving, who was meeting, who was at the events, who was supporting customers, etc. it was a team effort when it came to coordinating, traveling, meeting, and keeping the daily operations running. Our team and partners did a great job, so a big thanks to them.
Darren at the trade show booth
Thirdly, it took some real discipline. Wherever we went we tried very hard to respect the local norms and safety requests being made and, as always, we practiced safe juicing:
- Outside when possible or requested
- Juiced fresh fruit across the country
Finally, we can all be grateful for such a large and beautiful country with so many landscapes to capture some cool shots. This was a business trip and we drove past a lot of amazing sites, which we would have loved to stop at but couldn’t. We did, however, manage to make some stops, take the time and make the effort to capture some beautiful scenery and experience some truly amazing locations and meet some great people.
Jay on the Bonneville Salt Flats
Jump to the Top 10 Themes we observed
THE ROAD TRIP
While we observed some differences across the regions on many different levels, we also observed some similarities and common themes that make America what it is in a very positive way. We observed different accents, attitudes, traffic patterns, brands, and behaviors. But we also picked up on common themes that summarize the challenges we’re facing as a nation.
Since May 2021, we’ve driven through 19 different states on three different road trips. We’ve visited with over 50 different customers and met with multiple sales and service partners. If we include the trade show activities and events we’ve participated in, then we’ve had the honor and privilege of juicing with hundreds of people across the USA over the past 3-4 months. We’ve had some incredibly positive experiences in addition to some of those normal road trip hurdles that need to be overcome.
Wheel missing from the juice truck
TRAFFIC & DRIVING
As we all know, the roads, the drivers, and traffic patterns are different all across this massive country of ours. Here are some (admittedly) generalizations we came up with, based on our recent travels.
In Florida, on the highways, people drive way above the speed limit and weave in and out of traffic more freely. People also seem less likely to let you in when you put on your blinker. The southern charm seems to stop when some road courtesy is called for. There are an increasing number of toll roads in Florida, but they’re definitely well-maintained and help you reduce traffic delays and/or circumvent some high-traffic areas.
In Texas, they love their ‘Loops’. Once you understand what they are, and the service roads, then it all begins to make some sense and navigating around Texas is as easy as finding some amazing tacos and salsa! As they say, everything’s big in Texas and that definitely holds true for their gas stations and convenience stores. You’ve never experienced a big highway stop until you’ve been to a 100+ gas tank station in Texas. Graciously polite drivers.
In Kansas, we can confirm it’s really windy. Driving a large white-sided delivery truck in Kansas requires two hands on the wheel and readiness to fight against some very big gusts.
In Utah, we experienced a totally unique left-turn strategy. In doing some post-trip research, we discovered this is called the Displaced Left-Turn Intersection. Our first impression is that it’s a bit crazy and dangerous. After reading some of the fact-based literature, this may be a great system.
Although we didn’t drive through Michigan on this trip, they deserve an ‘honorable mention’ here for their Michigan Lefts strategy (Michigan Lefts). This strategy uses a series of turns to reduce the amount of dangerous traffic crossing situations and reduce or even eliminate the waiting times at traffic lights. As the home of Motor Town, USA, there may be some particular insights into this methodology.
In California, and this should be no surprise, we definitely hit some big traffic jams. For some drivers, this may be the first time they ever experience a traffic light to actually merge onto a highway. Surprisingly there were also some big potholes, but then again, we were experiencing temperatures well above 100 degrees.
When driving through New Mexico, you have to prepare for anything. Including low-flying UFOs. We experienced some of that and did some of our own research
The juice truck in California
Searching for UFOs in Roswell
BEING RESPECTFUL: COVID ATTITUDES ACROSS THE COUNTRY
In climatology and geography experts sometimes talk about ‘micro-climates’. Moving from one valley to the next, or crossing a river, or climbing some altitude can lead to very different climates within a very short driving distance.
We found that people’s attitudes toward COVID and their COVID-related behaviors changed like the weather across micro-climates. Across multi-state regions, individual states, and even between cities within the same states we experienced big differences in people’s COVID-related behaviors.
DISTANCING: In some regions, we observed more handshakes, hugs, and less distancing. In other geographies even doing a fist or elbow bump was a taboo move. Some grocery stores clearly had floor markings and mask mandates in place, while others were much more laissez-faire.
MASKING: In some areas, we barely saw a mask, while in others we observed that most people were wearing masks while walking outside on the sidewalk. In fact, within the same state between cities only 2-3 hours apart we observed big differences in masking behaviors. In one city you definitely wanted to keep that mask with you at all times, while in other cities you might get funny looks if you chose to wear a mask.
Hotels seemed to be particularly confusing for us as we drove across regions and borders. Determining when to wear or not wear a mask when checking in or rolling our bags through the lobby seemed to be a mystery.
The most important part about masking is the attitude and expression we’re each wearing behind our masks. Smiling is contagious and, believe it or not, a smile seems to shine through and around the mask. This is one contagion we could all do with a bit more of.
Brian serving fresh juice
OPENING HOURS: As many people know, when you’re on a multi-day road trip, finding quality food can be a challenge. During COVID this can be even more challenging in certain regions that still have opening hour restrictions in place. In some cases, where restrictions had already been lifted opening hours were still restructured due to labor shortages and closing the kitchen earlier. This was pretty frustrating on a few occasions when all the kitchens seemed to be closed at 9 pm… but we managed to adapt, find some food, and not starve.
FLEXIBILITY: We tried to roll with the punches and were certainly glad none were actually thrown. In the end, we tried to show everyone massive amounts of respect for their opinions. At the same time were extremely grateful that we were shown equal amounts of respect for our behaviors. We definitely got a lot of praise and kudos for our team’s courage in traversing this great country of ours. In the end, we hope that great food, fresh juice, amazing cocktails, and increased communication can help us all bridge the massive communication gaps that seem to exist across our country. Communication and cooperation is how we built this country and it gives me hope that we can all live by e pluribus unum.
e pluribus unum
This brings us to the common themes we experienced across the USA.
THE TOP 10 COMMON THEMES WE OBSERVED
- Everybody wants to be healthy. Nobody wants to be sick.
- Businesses want to get back to doing business.
- Most people want to get back to working safely.
- Labor shortages persist – but for many different reasons and worker safety is a huge challenge we need to overcome.
- Most people are making the best decisions they can based on the information they have. We all need to do a better job of understanding this and the concerns everyone has. (See #1!)
- Consumer behavior and attitudes have changed permanently and have generated new trends and market needs.
- Fresh, safe, and healthy food is a huge issue and most people want to eat good food.
- People love a good cocktail. Those who don’t drink alcohol still want to have a great beverage experience.
- People are eager to get back outside, meet up with people, go about their lives. People are very concerned about new waves of virus.
- Smiling and laughing is contagious and we need to spread them more. This is something we can all help in spreading: humor, laughing, and smiles.
LET'S GET FRESH TOGETHER
There are so many options these days with refrigeration, food preparation, and other related technology, Americans have never had so many fresh healthy alternatives. This is not just about citrus juice – this relates to all of our food choices.
In the 1980s, it was the salad bar. In the 1990s, it was craft beer. Grocery stores started adding olive bars and other hot food buffet items in the 1990s as well. We’ve had so many trends over the past 20 years. Some examples of this are low-carb, gluten-free, and more recently explosive growth in vegetarian and vegan options. These trends are driven by consumers who want fresh and healthy eating alternatives.
People also want fresh and healthy beverages to go along with their food.
People want fresh juice. There were quite a few times on our Juicing Across America Tour that people would follow us and ask if we were going to make fresh juice. When we pulled into Arches National Park and looked for a place to crank out some free & fresh healthy citrus juice on our manual juice press there was a small line of cars in tow thirsty for fresh juice. Getting it for free was an added bonus.
GETTING FRESH IN THE NATIONAL PARKS
Juicing at Arches National Park
The juice trucked parked at Arches National Park
Customers would greet us on our way into grocery stores excited about their favorite store implementing a fresh juice strategy. We’ve frequently been training up new customers in hotels or in restaurants and customers immediately ask about the juicing equipment and order fresh juice, before it’s even on the menu.
GETTING FRESH IN THE NATIONAL PARKS
In addition to all the trends regarding fresh, healthy, and natural foods, the COVID crisis has also changed the way we do business. The COVID crisis has forced consumers, restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, and all related suppliers to rethink HOW CONSUMERS GET THEIR FOOD as well as the entire FOOD SUPPLY CHAIN for how the trade operators get their food.
Grocery delivery, cocktails-to-go, even cocktail delivery are very common and popular offerings that have helped consumers get what they want and helped businesses stay open.
Fresh craft cocktails with quality ingredients are more than just a trend. High-quality beverages are here to stay. Once people start drinking higher quality beverages, good wines, craft beers, and quality cocktails it’s very difficult to take a step down to lower quality beverages. Using fresh lemon, lime, and orange juice dramatically improves cocktail recipes and the consumers can taste the difference.
GETTING FRESH IN THE RESTAURANTS
GETTING FRESH AT THE HOTEL BAR
GETTING FRESH AT TRADE SHOWS
There have been many recent articles about labor shortages and there is no lack of opinion about what’s causing the labor shortage. We met with multiple hotel managers, restaurateurs, and grocery store managers over the past few months. Everyone seems to be facing labor shortages. In this highly politicized, and often fact-free, environment we might all come to some hasty in inaccurate conclusions about the labor shortages.
We heard a lot of stories about hotels DOUBLING their hourly rates being offered, about restaurants dramatically increasing their benefits packages, and this list goes on. Regardless of these big financial moves, people are still not coming in for interviews or accepting job offers.
We found two very specific articles that have been helpful in describing this. These articles are targeted at the foodservice and grocery industry but probably have a wider application.
In his article, The REAL Reason for The Great Restaurant Labor Shortage, Ray Camillo leverages his many years in the restaurant industry to help explain some of what he thinks is going on. He points out that the different sides of the political spectrum are making their blanket statements, but there is something else going on and points we may be missing. Ray’s insights focus on two important topics: respect, and loving your career/job. Ray goes on to discuss ideas about career development, education, and skills management which are very insightful and based on his own years in the industry.
In their recent article and webinar, the Independent Grocer’s Association (IGA) provides a very fact-based view on Labor Trends in a Post-Pandemic World and how that’s impacting labor in the grocery industry and beyond. John Ross’s video-recorded webinar goes into the details of the study they commissioned to better understand the recent challenges in the labor market.
Based on the IGA’s study here are the top 4 reasons people are not going back to work presently:
- Looking for a better job
- Fear of COVID
- Receiving income
- Need childcare
These findings and articles absolutely support what we heard in our discussions with managers and staff across many different segments and across many different regions.
EFFICIENCY & SELF-SERVICE AS A WAY TO SAVE ON LABOR
While technology solutions can’t really address the labor shortage, such solutions can make some jobs and task both more efficient and more enjoyable. Making jobs easier, faster, safer, more reliable, and more consistent can address certain frustrations employees might face.
In addition, adding in self-service solutions can also help the situation. If equipment, serving utensils, and the overall environment looks clean and hygienic, consumers like self-service. Self-service carbonated beverages (Soda, pop, coke, etc. whatever you’d like to call it) are totally accepted by consumers. Salad and soup bars in the grocery stores and at restaurants are heavily used. Par-baked bakery goods to finish baking at home have been growing. Self-service coffee machines and high-end vending units are understood and used by consumers every day around the world.
Consumers want fresh products and are not afraid of self-service and DIY projects. Self-service allows the consumer to get the freshest products prepared on demand and selected by the consumer. Self-service options also help to improve workflow and improve labor efficiency, thus letting employees work on other value-added tasks.
In the case of juicing, where there’s a huge credibility gap in terms of natural ingredients. Self-service juicing is a fantastic way to let the consumer to see and experience the freshness and know exactly what they’re getting. Self-service juicing can help grocery stores and restaurants close the credibility gap with consumers while saving on labor costs.
GETTING FRESH & GOING FAST
Getting fresh, regardless of if it’s food or beverage, has to be fast & efficient. It needs to be convenient and relatively easy for the consumer to use. There may be some education aspects to help the consumer, but this hurdle is relatively easy to overcome with the right strategies.
Speed and efficiency are key for providing fresh solutions. Of course, safety & hygiene is a given and the consumers’ awareness of this has gone up dramatically over the past 2 years. With the labor shortages we’ve all experienced, there’s never been a more important time to invest in the right technology that allows for fresh experiences but does so safely and efficiently.
The juice truck on the Bonneville Salt Flats
Bonneville Salt Flats
CITRUS AMERICA'S STRATEGY
- Provide healthy commercial juicing equipment and juicing strategies to help our trade customers serve the most natural, fresh, healthy, and tasty juice possible – and do so safely. Our focus on Citrocasa citrus juicers has help make us the leader in innovation, and quality.
- Provide know-how and technical support to help our customers implement the strategies even in times of crisis, such as the COVID crisis. Even during times of crisis, or ESPECIALLY in times of crisis, people should eat and drink foods that taste great, make them feel good, and contribute to excellent health.
- Deliver solutions that generate Healthy Profits to our customers while making good on our commitment to Taste, Hygiene, and Efficiency.
Continue connecting with our customers anywhere in North America in the best way possible. We’ve dramatically increased our virtual communication capabilities but we’ve also developed smart, reasonable strategies to get out across the country to help spread the word about fresh juicing and how to implement the best programs.
Our country and our planet are facing some serious challenges. Across the country people are dealing with these challenges in their own local ways. People are coping with the stress and challenges differently as well and many are taking this time to rethink their lives. Some people are switching careers while others are opening up new businesses.
The USA is made up of many different geographies, climates, and economies. We experience different accents, traffic patterns, and behaviors across the country. Nevertheless, the United States has a long history of overcoming challenges and COVID will be no different. As we look for common themes and ways we can work together across the country, we all still need to eat and drink. Most people want to eat and drink great food. Most people are very actively trying to stay healthy.
We feel proud and privileged to be able to travel the country and share our insights and know-how with our customers and the consumer on fresh juicing strategies. It’s been a challenging period for all of us… we’re here to help with fresh juice.
About Citrus America– Citrus America has been driving innovation and quality in the juicing segment for more than a decade in North America and the Caribbean. We’re the exclusive master distributor for Citrocasa and have driven many innovations and quality improvements in juicing equipment. In addition to equipment solutions, we provide tailored training and support strategies to help our customers earn Healthy Profits.
About Citrocasa – Citrocasa has been the pioneer in producing the most innovative and highest quality food grade stainless steel commercial citrus juicing equipment to the grocery, hotel and restaurant since 2005 across Europe. The Citrocasa 8000 Series was launched in 2005, with the 8000XB and the 8000SB. The 8000SB-ATS was launched in 2013. The Citrocasa Fantastic Series was launched in 2010 with the Fantastic M/AS. The Fantastic F/SB followed in 2011.