Consumers are calling for fresher and healthier juice options, says Jo de Mille.

Pure ambient fruit juices may be naturally healthy but they are no longer considered fresh enough for consumers, who are demanding something which tastes as if it were picked and pressed that very morning. And, apparently, this isn’t too much to ask. While the overall fruit juice and juice drinks market increased by 37% between 1999 and 2004 to reach £2.3bn, the real growth has come from sales of chilled, high quality and natural juices, which have jumped 60% in the past couple of years alone, now worth £768m (Mintel January 2005).

As ever, the healthy eating trend combined with a back to basics approach of eating natural products plays a large role in this shift toward freshly chilled juices. And consumers see juice as a quick and convenient way of taking up one of the government’s recommended daily five portions of fruit and vegetables. But there are also a number of other forces at play here. Gerber Soft Drinks marketing controller Colin Davies explains: “Chilled juices and juice drinks are performing well, with consumers continuing to trade up from long-life. Consumers’ desire for more premium products and packaging coupled with the healthier perception of chilled drinks is behind this growth.” NEW FLAVOURS So while it is highly unlikely the juice has been freshly squeezed that morning, fresh products stored in the chiller give the impression of being much healthier. Customers are also seeking greater innovation, through new flavours, new blends and improvements to existing products - something which is more apparent in the chilled lines.

While Tropicana and Del Monte remain the branded juice leaders, with their 8% and 6% shares respectively of the overall juice market, (Mintel figures), own label still dominates this sector, with a 69% share of the chilled juice market. And it seems the largest impact on chilled juice sales has come from the major multiples’ promotions, offering three cartons for £2. Sainsbury recently introduced a permanent three for £2 promotion, which joined Asda, Tesco and Budgens’ three for £2 offers launched in 2002. But many c-stores haven’t yet caught on to the chilled juice trend, with their value share of the chilled juice market just 4%. PepsiCo trade marketing manager Nicky Seal says: “Although six out of 10 households buy chilled juice, ensuring it is now one of the fastest growing retail categories, it continues to be a huge missed opportunity in c-stores, with grocery leading the charge.” PepsiCo is therefore aiming to mirror the growth witnessed in the multiples within the c-store sector by providing a full programme to help wholesalers and retailers make the most of the opportunity. As part of this, the Tropicana Pure Premium brand underwent a revamp in April, including new packaging across the entire range.

The idea was to help retailers differentiate between products in the range and ease merchandising. Tropicana smooth packaging is now colour-coded in blue, sanguinello in purple, and golden grapefruit has an orange colour scheme. The 330ml and 500ml ‘on the go’ bottles and 1ltr take home cartons were also redesigned in April, using the same colour-coding system.

While juice drinks have a healthier image than carbonates, the reality is that many juice drinks contain high levels of sugar and are therefore less healthy than ambient pure juices. Innovation this year in juice drinks is therefore focussing heavily on no added sugar or low sugar chilled alternatives, to appeal to the more label-conscious consumers. For instance, Gerber is revamping its Ocean Spray brand to include a new Chilled Light Select range - a light version of the company’s chilled offering which will be available later in the summer. The company is also about to roll out new-look packaging across its core range. New products last year included the launch of white cranberry & lychee and white cranberry blend under its Cranberry Select brand. Unlike the juice market, the juice drinks sector tells a highly-branded story, with own brand representing just 41% of the juice drinks market (Mintel). The brand leader is Ocean Spray, with its 9% share of the market. In terms of flavour, cranberry is in third place behind orange and apple juice and juice drinks (orange holds a 51% share of the total market, apple 14% and cranberry 9%). Gerber’s Davis argues that while cranberry’s fruity but dry and clean taste is a key driver for the drinks, its inherent health benefits have also helped boost sales. Studies in recent years have shown that drinking cranberry juice may inhibit the adhesion of bacteria to the lining of the bladder and urinary tract, stomach and gums, thereby minimising the risk of infection.

Many consumers also buy cranberry juices as a detox drink. As Davis confirms: “Editorials communicating new cranberry health research, word of mouth and recommendations from health professionals have all helped fuel interest in Ocean Spray juice drinks, and brought more consumers to the brand.” The company’s ambient Light range has also seen a significant uplift in sales of both cranberry & blackcurrant Light and cranberry & raspberry Light, at 100% and 23% respectively. Cranberry & mango Light has seen the biggest increases year-on-year, of 159%, according to IRI infoscan February 2005 - an indicator that the consumer palate is becoming increasingly adventurous when it comes to flavours. UNUSUAL PASSIONS
When talking about juices, exotic has to be this year’s buzzword. And exotic does not mean grapefruit or tomato juice. For while they were the must-have starter or aperitif at every self-respecting British guesthouse in the 1970s, times have moved on: both flavours suffered considerable losses in volume terms between 2002 and 2004, with sales down some 23% and 60% respectively. No, today’s exotic means flavours such as mango, kiwi, passionfruit and various berries, which have seen a 133% increase in volume sales and have doubled their market share in the past two years (Mintel figures). Although orange remains the breakfast staple, many customers are opting for orange blended with other flavours such as mango, pineapple or cranberry. Exotic juice drink manufacturer Rubicon has just invested £3m into revamping its packaging, to include a new logo, as well as a new exotic hummingbird brand icon. The packaging features photographs of freshly picked mangoes, passionfruits, guavas, lychees and guanabanas set against brightly coloured backgrounds. In response to increasing interest in the Glycaemic Index the company will also be rolling out a premium chilled range of low GI-rated juice drinks later in the summer. Innovation last year included a new twist, pull and pour cap on Rubicon’s 1ltr cartons, which was designed to prevent leakage after opening. And the new ‘sensory’ straw on its single serve 288ml cartons has a sealed end with four small holes around the tip, aiming to stimulate the taste buds. But for the more adventurous palate, pomegranate juice drink brand Pomegreat extended its offering with the launch of pomegranate & blueberry at the beginning of the year, followed by pomegranate & raspberry in May. All drinks are available in 1ltr tetra packs and 330ml bottles. Pomegreat creator Adam Pritchard of RJA Foods says: “Our original Pomegreat pomegranate juice drink is our biggest seller by far, but steeply rising sales of our pomegranate & blueberry cartons prove consumers, having experienced pomegranate juice, are keen to sample our variants. “Continuing our message of tasty heart-healthy refreshment, raspberry was an obvious choice for its high levels of anti-oxidants and unique taste.” Rubicon head of marketing Barbara Down agrees that while taste is still key to encouraging loyalty and repeat purchase, health concerns are also a strong driver for exotic fruit juice purchases.

She says: “Increasingly busy lifestyles have led to the need for more convenience, and in some cases juices are becoming quick-fix meal replacements, for example a single mango meets almost all of your daily vitamin C needs and also contains minerals such as potassium, calcium, iron and zinc.” So it seems that if you have a good range of freshly chilled juices, as well as an exotic offering, you can’t go far wrong. And as a lazy way of consuming one of your five a day, they are truly an everyman’s drink. Singles' night
Set into your local M&S store and you can’t help but notice the vast array of single-serve juice variants under its Simply Food brand. There is clearly a reason for this offering. As a c-store retailer it is essential to stock a range of products to appeal to both the impulse, food-on-the-go market and the top-up shopper. Single-serve formats should be stored with other soft drinks in the chiller and alongside sandwiches. All the juice companies have a strong single-serve offering. For instance, Rubicon produces a range of exotic juice drinks in 288ml cartons and 300ml bottles, while PepsiCo’s 250ml Copella bottles have just been relaunched in a 330ml single-serve format to be in line with the company’s Tropicana ‘on-the-go’ bottles. Ocean Spray also has a selection of single-serve ambient juices in 200ml cartons.