First on First – Each month we will bring you the story of Italians and Italian Americans who accomplished firsts! This month, we’re taking a look at man who would change the fruit and juice industry forever: Anthony T. Rossi.
Anthony T. Rossi was born in Messina, Italy. As a young man he immigrated to the United States and settled in Long Island in 1921. During the 1930s he operated a grocery store and relocated to Bradenton, FL to operate various food establishments. Anthony grew weary of being a restaurateur and decided to pioneer a new type of business he called the Manatee River Packing Company.
In 1947, Anthony began to purchase citrus fruits directly from Florida growers and send the fresh fruit up the coast. Soon, his newly found company was supplying the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City with over 1,000 gallons of fresh sliced oranges and grapefruit every week. While driving around Florida during a holiday, Anthony spotted a billboard advertising Tropicana Cottages. It was this sign that inspired him to trademark the name for his newly formed frozen juice concentrate company.
Anthony and his company became the first to use refrigerated trucks, allowing him to ship fresh fruit all across the country. Tropicana was also the first to use flash pasteurization. In other words, Anthony invented the first ‘not from concentrate’ juice. Another first: Tropicana used paper cartons with wax coating to package their ready-to-drink juice.
After retiring in 1978, Anthony built a retirement community for Christian missionaries in East Bradenton, FL. He also founded the Bible Alliance, an organization that distributes recordings of religious text. He passed away in 1993 at the age of 92.