Cedric Donald “C.D.” Atkins (1913-2000)
Florida Citrus Commission
Dr. Louis MacDowell
Dr. Edwin L. Moore
Concentrate Orange Juice
Cutback (Add-Back Process)
Lake Alfred Research & Education Center
Cedric Donald Atkins, also known as “C.D,” was born in Winter Haven, Florida, in 1913. the only child of James H. Atkins, a railroad telegraph operator, and his wife, Christina, an elementary-school teacher. The Atkins family inherited a couple hundred acres of land in 1887, and it as on this land that they planted orange groves, which earned them a second income.
Atkins attended the University of Florida in the hope of eventually going to medical school but cut short his university studies after three years, when his parents ran out of money during the Great Depression. It was then that he enrolled in Florida Southern College near his parent’s home in Lakeland. He helped defray his tuition by teaching physics, chemistry, and biology. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1937, taking teaching jobs at Plant City High School, Ft Meade High School, and Winter Haven High School where he taught math, science, and coached football.
In 1942, while teaching summer school, he took a part time job at the Florida Citrus Commission, joining a research team headed up by Dr. Louis MacDowell and Dr. Edwin L. Moore. Also that summer Atkins left teaching permanently and entered the U.S.D.A. lab in Winter Haven, which at the time was investigating how to better concentrate orange juice for the armed forces and to make more efficient use of Florida’s orange crop. The concentration process was already well known by this time. The process involves heating the juice so that the water evaporates. The three researchers invented the process in which the flavor of orange juice could be retained by adding a bit of fresh juice to the concentrate and then freezing it. Called the cutback, or add-back process, it led to the expansion of the Florida citrus economy as well as surrounding industries for transporting and warehousing the juice. The result of their work was known as the “Cinderella” product for the Florida citrus industry.
The concentrate was sweeter, more flavorful, and had a more uniform acidity than fresh-squeezed orange juice. The cutback process also created a more nutritious product by restoring some of the Vitamin C that was lost in heating. The frozen citrus concentrate was marketed through the Snow Crop label which would later become Minute Maid.
The cutback process also caused the expansion of the Florida citrus economy as well as surrounding industries for transporting and warehousing the juice. This in turn helped the Florida farmers, who in 1947 were so oversupplied with oranges and orange trees that they were cutting them down and replacing them with avocado trees. The researchers obtained a patent in 1946 under an agreement that gave all rights to the federal government. Their frozen concentrate became widely accepted and caused a boom in demand for oranges.
As a part of the Florida Department of Citrus Research staff at the Citrus Experimental Station in Lake Alfred, Atkins played a major role in the development of citrus juice essences. He designed evaporators and essence units throughout the citrus industry, including the world’s largest unit designed for Lykes Pasco in 1970. Atkins authored six other patents, including one for a sports drink containing orange juice, a pulp-free syrup for carbonated beverages and a process for extracting the aroma from fresh juice, then adding it to concentrate, which enhances its flavor. He also authored numerous scientific papers. He received an award for “Outstanding Service to Mankind” from Florida Southern College and was the citrus industry emissary to Japan in 1972.
Atkins married the former Martha Kathryn Marsh and they had two children: a daughter, Barbara, and a son, Robert. They both were born in Winter Haven. He was also blessed with nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
He retired from the Florida Department of Citrus in 1972 and was inducted into the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame with the original “Dream Team” of MacDowell and Moore in 1983. He passed away June 3, 2000 in his Winter Haven home. The three researchers were also recognized as Great Floridians in 2007, honoring persons who made major contributions to the progress and welfare of the state of Florida.