- 1941 - 1945 -
The Fruit Front, Part 2
Rationing and Food Shortages

     Sacrifice was common on the home front as defense needs held high priority in obtaining materials made scarce by the disruption of trade routes during the war.  While popular culture has focused on household rationing, industries endured rationing and shortages as well.Rationing.png


     Cans were the most common packaging for processed fruit products because they were sturdy and easy to make.  Tin was a highly prized material during World War II.  Supplies to the United States were scarce during the war while at the same time more materials needed preparing for soldiers.  Thus, as the supply decreased, the need increased.  The War Production Board issued the Tinplate Conservation Order in 1942 (M-81) that listed and limited how canners could use tin.  Certain items had no limitations, such as peaches and pears.  Others were restricted.  For example, order M-81 eliminated packing fruit in eight ounce or other small sized cans. 

     In response to the tin shortage, food processors experimented with new types of packaging.  A new process for lining steel cans with tin developed that drastically reduced their need for tin.  Glass jars, once abandoned because of their fragility and cost, became popular again.


NA.sugar ration line.ww2.jpg     M-81 also restricted the amount of pineapple that canners could repack into fruit cocktail to ten percent.  Usually, Hawaiian pineapple canners shipped industrial sized cans of pineapple tidbits to California.  Then, California fruit canneries unpacked the pineapple and mixed it in the proper ratio of the California League of Canners’ fruit cocktail recipe.  The regulatory limitation of pineapple, in addition to reduced deliveries, left canners restricted to producing only ten percent of their normal pack of fruit cocktail.  Canners were very upset about this development.  Fruit cocktail had become one of their best-selling products prior to the war, and because it utilized lower grades of fruit, it offered the canners a high profit margin. 


     Sugar was as essential to California’s fruit canners as fruit itself, and the OPA rationed it during the war.  Japan’s capture of the Philippines reduced America’s sugar supplies.  As the industry learned of sugar rationing, canners first scrambled to find ways to produce the goods needed by the military.  By March 1942, canners’ ration of sugar was ninety percent of what they used in 1941.

 Brixa.png    An easy solution to account for the lesser amount of available sugar would be to discontinue packing fruit syrups with a high brix count.  However, the military wanted to pack as many calories in a can as possible and ordered heavy syrup for its orders.  Fortunately, the military eased some of the pressure on the canners when it agreed to accept whatever the canneries offered to civilians.  

     However, canners still faced many other new choices.  They could produce many more cans of peaches in syrup with a low brix than if they used a higher brix from the same amount of sugar.  Thus, they had potential to make more money by using very light syrup.  Another option was to split the pack between medium and low brix level syrup and eliminate the standard heavy canned syrup products. 


California League of Food Processors Papers, University of California - Davis, Shields Library Special Collections

"Sales of Sugar for Week Will Be Suspended." Modesto Bee. March 21, 1942.

"What Is the Future Outlook for Processed Foods?" The Food Packer, February 15, 1944.

Van Konynenburg, Frank A. A Home & a Price: 75 Years of History with the California Canning Peach Association. Lafayette, CA: California Canning Peach Association, 1997.