Captain Citrus to be Florida’s revamped nutritional superhero

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Marvel Comics is joining the Florida Department of Citrus to update Captain Citrus, the state’s nutritional superhero.

The agency is using marketing dollars boost citrus juice sales as it finalizes talks with the Disney-owned home of Spider-Man, the Avengers, and the X-Men, with a pending contract worth about $1 million. If successful, Captain Citrus of Planet Orange will become a male Marvel-like superhero, in an effort to transform it from a state character into a global brand.

“Marvel is dominating the superhero space at the moment, and we want to benefit from their genius as we work to get the message of orange-juice nutrition into the hands of children and their parents,” Department spokesperson David Steele said to Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida.

Captain Citrus, in his revamped form, will appear in a minimum of one printed comic book and two digital sequels, alongside characters from the Marvel universe, such as Captain America and the Avengers, Steele said.

Steele added that the actual story lines released until the official relaunch, which will “develop affinity for the character, deliver a message about the nutritional benefits of 100 percent Florida orange juice, and build loyalty for Florida citrus.”

Captain Citrus first appeared in 2011, used by the department to get the message of Orange Juice nutrition to students in the classroom.

The captain will also play a role in a campaign titled “There’s Amazing Inside,” launched at the Florida Citrus Industry Annual Conference in Bonita Springs this week, Turner notes.

Funding both the program and new marketing campaign is from money once used to purchase television and media ads. Ending media buys will free up about $13 million, which will go to branding and marketing the new Captain Citrus.

“The evolving media habits of consumers, combined with (the Florida Department of Citrus’) declining revenues and unpredictable funding levels, it no longer made sense for us to lock up such a huge percentage of our budget in television buys,” Steele told Turner.

Funding for the department comes primarily from taxes on the sale of oranges and other citrus fruits.

Sales and production of Florida orange juice could drop as much as 22 percent from the same time a year ago, according to estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The incurable disease called citrus greening is responsible for much of that drop.

Gov. Rick Scott included $3.5 million for citrus-disease research in the current state budget, as well as $500,000 for citrus-breeding programs, to obtain new citrus varieties.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.