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Being able to enjoy some freshly-peeled oranges in the hazy afternoon sun is one of the best things in winter. Choosing the best oranges to buy from the supermarket is a different ball-game altogether, requiring some serious intuition about fruits. Or, perhaps just some plain luck. Nature, you see, is hardly consistent with how she prepares each fruit.
Inconsistency, however, is not a luxury that packaged juice brands can enjoy. We buy and enjoy them all year round, and we expect a consistent taste throughout. Ah, the joys of manufactured goods!
However, have you ever thought that if nature herself is so inconsistent, how is it that the packaged juice brands tend to remain so consistent throughout? The secret ingredient is statistical modelling.
Take Coca Cola, for example, the manufacturer of Minute Maid brand of orange juice. The amazing consistency of its orange juice is due to a top-secret mathematical algorithm called "Black Book".
This algorithm is a super-complex statistical model that seeks to optimise taste of the juice as a function of various input parameters of the juice, such as the pulp content, acidity, sweetness, and many others. The model can also take in the weather phenomena in the various orange growing regions and take their impacts into consideration while estimating the taste of the produce.
With the optimisation model in their arsenal, producing a consistent taste is simply a matter of knowing the chemical and taste parameters of the final juice, and tweaking the proportions of the input juice batches to arrive at the desired output.
Of course, Coca Cola is a giant corporate machine that needs to have its profit wheels moving. So, the model makes its optimisations keeping the cost and produce availability constraints in sight.
In America, Coke also uses satellite images to tell the farmers the optimal time to pick the oranges. The juices are transported from the raw produce processing facility to Coca Cola's facility by underground pipeline to reduce the transit time, costs, and losses.
Fascinatingly, no part of an orange is wasted. The pulp is frozen for bottling, the peel is squeezed to extract the oils for flavouring, and the remaining peel is pressed into cattle-feed.
With statistical optimisation playing such a big role in bringing you your perfect orange juice, the next time you pick a glass up, pause and raise a toast to the statistics that has gone into it.
About the Author
Soumyadip Pal is a retail analytics professional and a passionate educator with more than 8 years in the industry and more than 7 years in the academia, currently working as a consultant with Manipal Prolearn.