New Citrus Exec Faces Some Tough Challenges
Lakeland Ledger – June 29, 2012
BARTOW | Fate did not welcome Douglas Ackerman to his new job as executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus on Jan. 9.
On that first day, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a new program to test all imported orange juice shipments for carbendazim, an illegal fungicide that had found its way into the domestic OJ supply through Brazilian imports. Research has linked carbendazim to cancer and birth defects.
Carbendazim became a national story for the next weeks, leading to a U.S. consumer backlash against orange juice. Sales, which had already been declining at 7 percent to 8 percent in previous months, plummeted into double-digit territory for the next four months before “recovering” in May back to an 8 percent drop.
Ackerman didn’t receive a full endorsement from the Florida Citrus Commission when he was hired in December.
The 5-4 vote followed a four-month search.
The minority commissioners questioned whether his 17 years of marketing experience in the restaurant, bakery and supermarket industries gave Ackerman the right tools to revive sagging U.S. orange juice sales.
Commissioners, Florida citrus growers and other industry officials expect nothing less from Ackerman than the Herculean task of reversing the 12-year trend of declining retail OJ sales in the U.S. Since the 2000-01 citrus season, retail OJ sales have fallen about 40 percent in U.S. supermarkets.