Liquid vitality


Historically, juices have been a stable, steady category that offered few surprises. But that reality is changing.

Consumption patterns show a public turning away from classics such as orange juice and toward innovative new flavors and products. Exotic fruit juice blends, unexpected combinations of vegetables and fruits, smoothies, coconut water, aloe vera juice and juices made from antioxidant-rich "superfruits" are attracting the dollars of health- and weight-conscious adults, and parents in particular, according to "Fruit and Vegetable Juices: U.S. Market Trends," an April 2013 report from Packaged Facts, a division of Rockville, Md.-based

Between 2007 and 2012, U.S. dollar sales of fruit and vegetable juices and juice drinks were flat. Consumption barely kept pace with population growth: Total orange juice consumption fell 3.6 percent, Packaged Facts reports, while consumption of frozen orange juice (concentrate) fell by almost 15 percent. But consumption of "other" fruit juices and juice drinks rose 11.8 percent during the same timeframe, and the number of households using "diet" juices grew by 40 percent within this nearly $20 billion market.

consider product development that addresses consumers weight- and health-related concerns.

ignore kids when it comes to the development of health-minded juices.

Data from Chicago-based Information Resources Inc. for the 52 weeks ending March 24, meanwhile, show dollar and unit sales declines for many private label subcategories of juices and juice drinks (see the table, p. 44).Health, weight and culinary concerns, influenced by the success of chains such as Jamba Juice, continue to occupy consumer minds. Given that reality, product innovations that address those concerns and meet consumers needs potentially could grow the juice category, the report says.

Spotlight on innovation

"Real innovation adds new users to the category, builds shopper satisfaction and is driven by breakthrough functional benefits," says David Kirkpatrick, president and chief marketing officer of The Fave Juice Co., Middletown, N.J.

Consumers are seeking tangible health benefits from their beverages, and this trend squarely impacts the juice category, he says. He advises store brand managers to look to juices that provide added daily servings of vegetables and fruits, reduce calories without adding artificial sweeteners, are 100 percent juice and low in sodium, and have "reasonable" carbohydrate counts and sugar content.

Fave offers its 100 percent fruit and vegetable juices in Strawberry-Banana-Kiwi, Pomegranate-Blueberry-Goji and Orange-Tangerine-Pineapple varieties; they are available for private labeling as well. The 8-ounce servings feature reconstituted vegetable juice blends and provide three full servings of vegetables. Calories clock in at a skinny 60.

"Consumers today are smarter and more informed than ever. Real innovation, focused against the reason consumers drink juice in the first place, will achieve that goal," Kirkpatrick says.

Shoppers, particularly mothers, want juices that are good for their families, and the attributes they seek, in order of importance, are beverages that 1) are 100 percent juice, 2) contain full servings of vegetables or fruit, 3) are low in calories and sugar, and 4) are all-natural and great-tasting, Kirkpatrick explains.

More fruit and vegetable blends, coconut water-based juices, and lower-calorie offerings are the current hot trends, Joe Arends, marketing manager for Leahy-IFP in Glenview, Ill., reports. Leahy-IFP, which has been in business more than half a century, produces juices and other beverages, including aseptic and shelf-stable varieties and smoothie bases, among other products.

Packaged Facts also advises marketers to launch more creative juice blends, using products such as cacao, acai and beets to capture the attention of health-conscious consumers. Furthermore, because consumers are becoming more concerned about how many calories their beverages contain, marketers should find healthful ways to reduce the sugar content of their juices, the report says.

One of the most prominent emerging trends in the juice category, as well as in other food categories, Arends notes, is to offer non-GMO verified products (assuring consumers the products ingredients are not genetically modified).

"This will definitely be a focus for us and our partners," Arends says.

This health-conscious trend is "mom-driven," Jeff McClelland, CEO of California Aseptic Beverages, Fontana, Calif., observes. Parents are reading labels and watching their kids diets in an effort to feed them nutritious foods and help them maintain healthy weights, he adds.

On the ingredient front, McClelland observes that over-abundant supplies of apple juice concentrate from China and elsewhere have driven down the price for this ingredient, offering manufacturers and retailers cost-saving opportunities.

Rethink packaging

Plastic bottles, paperboard cartons and metal cans long have been used to package juices, but aseptic packaging offers an innovative alternative for shelf-stable juices. Shelf-stable juices, in general, require far less labor and energy than their refrigerated and frozen counterparts, Kilpatrick points out. And because refrigerated store space is at a premium and is expensive to maintain, retailers could build value by creating more consumption from the shelf-stable juice category, he adds.

consider aseptic packaging as a means to deliver innovation and cost savings.

ignore the needs of multicultural households, which account for 47 percent of juice consumed each day.

California Aseptic Beverages packages Mickies Slices organic fruit juices and vitamin-enriched waters for Kids Healthy Foods LLC in triangular-shaped 5-ounce Tetra-Pak aseptic cartons, McClelland notes. Made for kids, the package is a cross between a juice box and a pouch; it is hard for kids to knock over and boasts ease of straw insertion. The carton also may be frozen to create a slushy treat. Juice flavors are Fruit Punch and Pineapple Lemon. Vitamin-enriched water comes in Kiwi Watermelon and Orange Mango flavors.

The company currently supplies Mickies Slices to the Los Angeles Unified School District and makes its products available for private labeling.

As in many other grocery arenas, managers should remember the consumer appeal of sustainable packaging, too, Arends adds.

Opportunities beckon

Going forward, retailers have a real opportunity to address consumer health concerns such as obesity and diabetes via targeted juice products, Kirkpatrick believes.

"We are the fattest nation in the history of the world, and this trend is accelerating," he says. "We ingest over 50 teaspoons of sugar per person, per day, and we have over 26 million diabetics – almost one in 10 Americans.

"Adult obesity is at epidemic proportions in America," Kirkpatrick adds. "Thirty-eight states now have adult obesity rates above 25 percent. Twenty percent of all children ages six to 11 are obese."

Furthermore, Kirkpatrick says, Americans average only 4.5 servings of fruit and vegetables daily – about half what they need to support good health.

Faves focus groups repeatedly have shown that consumers are aware of this dietary shortfall, Kirkpatrick reports. When asked, he says, a common response was, "We know we dont eat enough vegetables, but I cant get my kids to eat them – they dont like the taste." Another common response was, "We are very busy, we eat on the run – we just dont make time for vegetables."

Demographic changes in the aging U.S. population provide another health-related opportunity, Kirkpatrick adds, citing an AARP endorsement of vegetable juice consumption as a way to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimers disease.

And multicultural households offer yet another opportunity – one not specifically tied to health, according to the Packaged Facts report.

"Because multicultural families are more likely than non-Hispanic white households to have more than three persons and to include children, they have an outsize[d] impact on the market for juices and juice drinks," the report states. Though they represent one-third of U.S. households, they consume nearly half – 47 percent – of the juice consumed by households every day.

"Marketers need to focus on the tastes and preferences of multicultural consumers in order to build a solid foundation for growth," the report advises.