Fruit juice has come a long way from the days when a 1ltr brick of long-life orange was about all that was on offer. Today most towns have a juice bar where juices and smoothies are made to order, and the superstores feature juices and smoothies galore.
Smoothies might be all the rage, but within the massive soft drinks market they're still only small fry. Yes, smoothies was the fastest growing sub-category in soft drinks last year (according to Britvic's latest Soft Drinks Report) but growth was from a very small base. Total smoothie sales in 2007 amounted to £214m, up 31% on the previous year, bu they were worth just £2m through independent outlets and £13m through co-ops and symbols.
With their perceived health benefits, smoothies look set to continue their sales growth. However, the c-store sector has been slow to stock them. It seems a lot of retailers believe they might be just too expensive for their customers.
Innocent, which according to the Britvic report commands a 66% share of the smoothies market, says the convenience sector has huge potential for growth. Up until recently the brand had a limited presence in the sector, but its smoothies are now available in Budgens, Londis, Nisa, Spar, Co-op and Somerfield. The company reports that it is in talks with "the other main players" plus it has invested in its convenience team to ensure its convenience customers receive a high level of service.
Innocent recommends that c-store retailers stock its 250ml size bottles in mangoes & passion fruits, strawberries & bananas and superfoods natural detox (pomegranate, blueberries & acai) varieties. For take-home it recommends the 1ltr cartons of mangoes & passion fruits and strawberries & bananas.
It was Tropicana that really raised the bar for juices with its not-from-concentrate juices. And the brand has recently moved into premium smoothies. Owner Pepsico reckons these will build on Tropicana's reputation - introducing loyal Tropicana consumers to smoothies and attracting new drinkers to the sector.
There are five flavours available: strawberry & banana; mango, passionfruit & pineapple; blackberry & blueberry; raspberry & pomegranate; and apple, pear & cranberry. The launch is currently backed by a £4.5m spend including TV advertising.
Tropicana marketing director Jenni Dill says: "We believe the smoothies sector could be worth £300m in just two years' time so retailers need to review their soft drinks ranges to ensure they are offering the products and brands their shoppers expect to find."
The latest brand to jump on the smoothies express is Ocean Spray with its Grower's Reserve range in 1ltr cartons. Each variety is made from 100% fruit and a 250ml serving counts as one of the recommended 5-a-day.
Three varieties are available: cranberry; cranberry & raspberry; and cranberry & blackcurrant. All have a rrp of £2.99.
Says Ocean Spray UK drinks manager Jonathan Duffin: "Our brand and its health credentials appeal to an older, more affluent, health-conscious consumer, and currently no other smoothie line engages directly with this key audience."
Meanwhile, organic juice brand Grove Fresh is launching single-serve smoothies exclusively for convenience retailers. The 250ml drinks will be available from July in strawberry & banana and mango & passionfruit varieties.
Sales and marketing director Mark Phillips says: "Although sales of smoothies have soared in recent years, the choice available to organic consumers has been somewhat limited. We are one of the first companies to produce smoothies that are certified organic and therefore guaranteed free from the residue of artificial fertilisers and pesticides.
Back to that thorny issue of price and one smoothie brand has tackled the problem head on. Earlier this year PJ's Smoothies were repositioned with lower price points in a bid to attract new consumers to the sector.
Brand manager Richard Lawrence says: "Consumers have long complained that smoothies are too expensive and in a recent survey 42% said that price was the biggest barrier to consumption. So, in an effort to make smoothies accessible to all and to open up the market for further category growth, PJ's has introduced lower price points and has undergone a range rationalisation."
The result is that PJ's Smoothies are now available in apple, kiwi & lime; orange, mandarin & guava; strawberry, apple & rhubarb; and strawberry & banana flavours. They are priced at 99p for 250ml and £1.99 for 1ltr.

Growth spurt

Pure juice is the number two category in soft drinks behind cola. According to Britvic, sales were worth just over £1bn last year, up 17% on 2006 figures. In independents pure juice accounts for 4% of all soft drink sales, worth £31m, and in co-ops and symbol group stores it accounts for 12% of sales, worth £88m.
Meanwhile, juice drink sales across the total market were up 11% last year and are now worth £671m. In independents they were worth £91m and in co-ops and symbols, £71m.
Britvic business unit director of convenience and impulse Tim Roberts comments: "Health and wellbeing and the increasing availability of juices in a convenient single-serve format are important drivers for the sub-category, while exotic new flavours allow consumers to indulge themselves. Consumers are increasingly aware of the 5-a-day principle to stay healthy and are increasingly turning fruit juice as an option when on the go."
Britvic launched single-serve 250ml Robinsons Smooth Juice in orange and apple varieties to the chilled impulse sector in March. It is a 100% pure juice, blended with a hint of barley to provide a smoother, less acidic texture.
Breakfast is still a key occasion for juice consumption and the Johnsons freshly squeezed brand is targeting these consumers. Brand manager Dan Gough says: "The traditional usage of freshly squeezed juice is for a special breakfast, so our 1ltr bottle would suit two or three people over a couple of weekend mornings."
Johnsons will be targeting consumers with sampling this summer and is planning a more widespread media campaign later in the year.
Meanwhile, Grove Fresh is adding two new varieties to its juice range with the launch of tropical blend and apple & blueberry this month. The company reckons both are unique varieties in the organic juice market.
The latest launch from Rubicon is an addition to its Sun Exotic sub-brand. Its new fruit paradise variety includes guanabana, calamansi, pineapple, papaya and the Amazonian fruit acerola.
The company is also highlighting the improved health benefits of its Rubicon exotic juice range with a fresh packaging design for its 288ml and 1ltr cartons. The range will benefit from a £4m support package which includes TV, a heavyweight outdoor campaign, sampling and PR.
Last month saw Feel Good's TV debut with a 12-week campaign running through to mid-July. Dave Wallwork, managing director and co-founder of The Feel Good Drinks Company, reports that sales of its 100% Juice are going well. The drinks come in three flavours: apple, kiwi & lime; orange, clementine & pineapple; and raspberry, apple & blackcurrant. All come in 250ml and 1ltr bottles.
Every so often a new juice style comes along and starts a trend. A couple of years ago it was pomegranate juice, which today is used in many drinks. The leading pomegranate drink is Pomegreat and marketing director Rob Sutton says the availability of the 1ltr size in convenience stores is increasing. He says: "While Pomegreat has broad appeal across all life stages, it is relatively stronger among health-conscious adults who expect to see Pomegreat in convenience stores as part of their regular top-up shopping repertoire."
The choice of juice drinks on the market is quite staggering and while Anita Doran, director of the Hibiscus Drinks Company, realises that mainstream brands are the cornerstone of the c-store chiller cabinet, she advises retailers to try making space available for trendsetting drinks. She says: "These will enhance the image of your outlet and offer your customers the very latest new products on the market."
She says that, according to Mintel, consumers welcome different drinks and appreciate the chance to expand their repertoire. "For example, Hib! is the UK's first ever superflower drink made from the Hibiscus flower bush. It not only tastes delicious, but is packed full of positive health benefits."
Apparently, Hibiscus has been used for centuries as a natural remedy to treat high blood pressure, liver disorders and cancer. Hib! contains a source of anthocyanin antioxidants that help mop up harmful free radicals in the body and protect against the damage they may cause. The drink is made from pure spring water and is naturally caffeine free with no artificial additives, colourings or flavourings. It comes in still and lightly sparkling varieties.
A relatively new trend is for fruit drink brands to launch 100% juice versions. Capri Sun did this in 2006 and the latest brand to give it a go is Ribena with its 100% Pure Juices. Available in two flavours - blackcurrant blend and raspberry & blackberry blend - they are naturally rich in antioxidants with each 250ml serving counting as one of a 5-a-day.
Ribena senior brand manager Ruth Irving says: "100% Pure Juices take Ribena into a new drinking occasion - breakfast - and will be a great vehicle for developing Ribena as a contemporary brand for young adults. In trials three out of four consumers said they would buy our Pure Juices in addition to products they already buy - meaning a huge incremental sales opportunity."
This spring Capri Sun launched a Fruit Rush variant which, because of its 'all natural formulation', can be stocked in English schools.
The drink is made from 75% juice and 25% water and comes in two flavours: orchard fruits and tropical fruits.
Meanwhile, the Appletiser brand has been strengthened with the launch of new Fruitiser. Made from 100% fruit juice with a touch of sparkle, the drink comes in three fruit juice combinations: pomegranate & raspberry; mango & mandarin; and apple & dragonfruit.
The launch is supported by a £1.5m marketing spend which includes women's press advertising, PR and sponsorship of Sex and the City on Paramount TV.
Finally, another sparkling drink
is new Tropicana Spirit. It is a blend of juice and lightly sparkling mineral water which is described as "a more natural, healthier alternative to a traditional carbonated soft drink".
It comes in three flavours: orange & mango; blueberry & blackberry; and lemon & grapefruit. The drink is targeted predominantly at the impulse sector and the launch is being backed by a £5m spend.
Tropicana's Jenni Dill says: "Consumers are increasingly looking to soft drinks with better-for-you credentials, but they also expect to find refreshing drinks when they're thirsty. Tropicana Spirit taps into both these needs."

The 5-a-day dilemma

Some 25% of consumers believe that orange squash counts as one of their recommended 5-a-day portions of fruit and veg. According to research undertaken for Tropicana Smoothies, 66% of consumers believe they know how to get their 5-a-day fruit and veg. However, their confusion about what counts means that this is not the case.
More than 1,300 people were questioned and other results included:
3% thought chips counted as a vegetable
10% thought herbs counted as part of their 5-a-day
13.5% of people said 5-a-day is an unrealistic goal
20% of men surveyed said they didn't care about 5-a-day.
A 250ml serving of Tropicana Smoothies counts as two of a consumer's 5-a-day.

The VAT factor

One of the reasons why 100% fruit juices and smoothies are so expensive is that they are subject to VAT at 17.5%. Asda recently launched a campaign calling for a reduction in the VAT rate to 5%. Its argument was that on the one hand the government is urging consumers to eat more fruit, but on the other is classifying these pure juice drinks as 'luxury items' and taxing them at 17.5%.

Retailers' views

Margaret Banfield, Premier Embankment Stores, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire:
"We don't sell a lot of smoothies as they are quite expensive. We have tried PJ's and Innocent, but now sell a local brand called Stute. It is worth stocking;I think that's because of the price - £1.49 for 500ml.
"On juice, one of our better sellers is Booker's Euroshopper because it represents really good value. We sell it at 69p for a litre. All the Euroshopper stuff sells well. We also have Tropicana. We always sell its small bottles of juice, but we've also got the large cartons at the moment because they were on offer at Kerry Foods. We sell Princes as well as a Polish brand called Tymbark. We've got that in a cherry & apple flavour."

Mark Paddison, Spar (Tates), Wyberton, near Boston, Lincolnshire:
"Smoothies sell best when they are
on promotion and brands such as PJ's
are on regular promotion - probably every nine weeks or so. To be honest, we struggle to shift them when they are at their full price.
"Spar brand juices have always sold well, and sales of Tropicana are getting better. They've been promoted quite heavily - the small and larger sizes - and they are now even selling well off promotion. I suppose it's because people are more health conscious these days. Orange was always the best-seller, but we've noticed a bit of a change there with more people going for flavours such as pineapple."