Why do they call it that? Tropicana squeezed in Bradenton | News
Bradenton, Florida -- Tropicana, North America's number one OJ, has been squeezed and bottled in Bradenton since 1949.
Each Wednesday this month, we're going to tell you about something amazing your neighbors have created.
They're famous around the world, but they got their start right here in Tampa Bay. You may be surprised, and you'll definitely be impressed.
Why do they call it Tropicana?
You want the American dream? How about turning 30 bucks into the world-famous company that makes America's number one orange juice?
Anthony Rossi came to New York from Italy with $30 in his pocket. He knew he'd be a great businessman. He just had to find the right business -- one ripe for the picking.
"Mr. Rossi tried a lot of things," said Tropicana operations chief Mike Haycock. "He tried a restaurant in Bradenton. He tried a restaurant in Miami."
"He decided that fresh fruit and getting a product to the Northeast faster than anybody else was the way to make Tropicana successful."
Haycock helps run Tropicana's enormous squeezing, bottling, and shipping center in Bradenton.
They have another, smaller center in Ft. Pierce on the east coast, but Bradenton is the origin of most of North America's best-selling OJ. More than a million gallons are bottled each day.
And all of it almost never existed.
Haycock says in 1947, Anthony Rossi decided to move from the Big Apple to big orange country: Manatee County, Florida.
He started out shipping gift boxes of citrus fruit to New York. Then he came up with a plan to squeeze a profit out of the fruits that weren't just right for gift boxes.
He'd do something never done before: ship fresh Florida orange juice all the way to the northeast.
But hold on.
"The big issue was: How do you make orange juice last as long as it needs to to transport it to New York?" Haycock said.
The state wouldn't even grant Rossi a license to ship his OJ to NYC. They argued if his juice spoiled on the way there, it would give folks a sour impression of the Sunshine State's crops.
That could not be allowed.
So Rossi and his team invented a new way to package orange juice. They found the trick to perfectly seal it in spoil-resistant glass containers.
That was enough to secure that license to ship his Tropicana juice across the country. The new packaging started a wave of innovation that Tropicana hasn't stopped since.
"Buying refrigerated trucks. Then building the S.S. Tropicana ship, that we shipped a million gallons a day to the Northeast," Haycock said.
"And then, finally, the rail service. I think many people have seen the Tropicana train go across the United States.
"We have a train that leaves every day for New York City... A train that leaves every day for Cincinnati, Ohio... And then we have a train once a week that heads out to California."
Tropicana buys more oranges from Florida growers than anyone else in the world. It's enough Florida oranges each year to stretch around the world more than ten times.
"You'll see trucks from all over the state headed to Bradenton, Florida to supply Florida oranges for our Tropicana orange juice," Haycock said.
What about the name Tropicana? That's Florida-grown, too.
The story goes that Rossi was driving down US 41. He spotted a sign advertising some cottages for tourists to rent.
The name? "Tropicana Cabins." It's the kind of warm, peaceful name a northerner would drool over on a cold winter morning.
Rossi trademarked it for his line of juices -- first squeezed in Tampa Bay six decades ago, now sold on multiple continents around the world.
Why do they call it that? Now you know.
The "Why do they call it that?" series on famous things that got their start in Tampa Bay continues next Wednesday.
Hear the stunning story of how folks started out selling 112 can openers, and turned that into a massive website and cable network in 96 million homes.
We'll take you into the incredible St. Petersburg studios of HSN next Wednesday on The Morning Show.
Check out previous editions of this Emmy-nominated series at our "Why do they call it that?" website: wtsp.com/callitthat.