I love fruit juice. Apple juice. Orange juice. Cranberry juice. I don’t care if they’re necessarily healthy or not, so I ignore most discussion around that. But something else I tend to ignore is the term “from concentrate” on the label, because I’ve never really understood the difference between a juice that’s made from concentrate and one that is not.
Making juice concentrate itself is actually a fairly simple process that involves juicing the fruit, then filtering to remove a large portion of its water for easier transport. To make juice from this concentrate, the water is added back in and the mixture is then pasteurized, heating up the juice to kill any pathogens that might be present.
The pasteurization process is applied to both juices from concentrate and those that are not, so the main difference between the two types is the filtration and later addition of water to the fruit juice. Not-from-concentrate juice skips those steps and simply goes from juicing straight to pasteurization.
So, does that make juice from concentrate better or worse than other juice? The answer depends on what exactly you’re buying.
Any variety of juice can have ingredients like sugars or preservatives added throughout the process. If you want to know how “healthy” your juice is, those additives matter a lot more than whether concentrate was used. Which makes sense, if you think about it: if you were to take two grapefruits and juice them, remove the water from one glass, then add it back in later, both glasses of juice would still have the same nutritional value.
Major brands like Tropicana and Simply Orange love to boast that their product is not from concentrate. The term is FDA regulated, but it also has the added benefit of consumers (like myself) perceiving juice from concentrate as somehow less fresh or more processed. But the fact is, if you’re buying a mass-marketed carton of juice, there’s a decent amount of processing going on no matter what. As long as the first ingredients on the label are “juice” and “water,” there’s no reason to think less of a particular product.