There’s a healthy fruit drink for all tastes and all occasions in trendy Islington. Tracy West reports.

Consumers in Islington, north London certainly love their juices. Walk into the local Budgens and you’ll find juice in three locations in the store.

As you walk in there’s an impulse drinks chiller stacked full of the stuff. There’s Tropicana original, Tropicana Essentials multivitamins and Copella apple juice all on offer, down from £1.10 to 69p. Then there’s the new Pom Wonderful drink at £2.99 plus PJ Smoothies and New Covent Garden Food Company juice. PJ’s has 30% extra free while New Covent Garden’s retail at £1.75 for 250ml. There’s also Innocent in five flavours at £1.75 each plus Ribena bottles and cartons at 78p and 46p respectively.

It’s quite a selection, and there are enough flavours to suit even the fussiest of tastes.

At the back of the shop there is another juice chiller, this one filled with take-home packs. Here there’s more Tropicana (1ltr and 1.75ltrs in various flavours, including Essentials with calcium and sanguinello). Also in this chiller is Innocent 1ltr at £3.39, Grove Fresh organic, Ocean Spray cranberry juices plus Budgens own label. The Budgens 100% freshly squeezed orange juice retails at £1.59 for a litre but is on offer at two for £3. However, there’s also a cheaper Budgens juice - orange or apple - at 79p for 1ltr or three for £2. Nearby, there is a huge display of Welch’s white grape & peach juice and white grape & pear juice at £1.19 for 1ltr with a ‘buy one get one free’ offer. The third permanent juice display is in the ambient aisle. Here there are all sorts of juices available, from J2O and V8 to Sunsweet prune juice plus The Creole Drinks Co’s Big Tomato, Eden organic carrot juice and James White Fresh Fruity Cox drink. For customers hunting a bargain there’s Budgens’ 1ltr juice carton at 59p.

The store’s manager Chris Edon says sales of juice are healthy. “Soft drinks account for 5% of our sales, and about two-thirds of that is fruit juice. Tropicana 500ml is our best selling juice line and orange is our best selling flavour by far. Our customers like the small bottles to take away as they are convenient. We sell a lot of these - 330ml and 500ml - to office workers, mostly young women who come in during the morning. There’s a gym round the corner so we get members popping in pre- and post-exercise for bottled drinks. “We get mums coming in in the mornings to get juices to go with their kids’ packed lunches. There’s the primary school just around the corner, so Ribena sells very well. Later in the day, the bigger 1ltr packs of juice sell better.”

Chris keeps his impulse juice chiller topped up throughout the day. He says it’s always full first thing, gets topped up for the lunchtime rush, then again after lunch, then again ready for the evening. “We get six deliveries a week and there’s juice on every delivery. We do have a back-up fridge for what we call ‘red dot lines’ - the real fast sellers - and these include Tropicana as we don’t ever want to run out of that.”
The prospect of a hot summer gives Chris no concern. He’s confident Budgens will keep him fully stocked at all times.

Chilling the juices helps with sales, so the fridges have to be kept in top working order. Chris says the Budgens ones are serviced regularly, and there’s a special pre-summer callout to make sure the equipment can handle the heavy summer load.

Chris is surprised at the continuing popularity of orange juice: “Despite all the flavours available, orange is still our No.1. Then comes apple, then some of the mixed flavours, and cranberry’s doing okay.” He likes the new-look Tropicana range: “It’s too early to say whether the pack changes have made any difference to sales but the colour-coding should certainly help the customers find what they want, plus it’ll be easier for our staff when they’re restocking shelves.”

One of the newest juice lines on Budgens’ shelves is Pom Wonderful, the pomegranate juice drink. One of the stars of hit TV show Desperate Housewives has been spotted drinking it in the States, and in image-conscious Islington, it’s selling really well. Says Chris: “It’s our most expensive juice (£2.99 for 473ml). It’s the added benefits it’s supposed to have plus an image thing that’s helping it sell. When we first got it, we did some sampling and sold out within two days. Now it’s one of our best sellers.”

Chris says it’s imortant to have the right range: “We have premium juices for the well-off city people and the young arty types but we also have own label for those on a budget. Plus we have organic juices and ones for kids. In fact, we have something for everyone.” Buyer's Viewpoint
Laura Kingsman, trading manager, juices and smoothies, Musgrave Budgens-Londis: “In juices, own label and branded are both very strong. The whole market is growing. “Tropicana is our best performing juice brand, while Ocean Spray has done a fantastic job in educating consumers about the benefits of cranberry. Copella does well too, as does the Grove Fresh organic range.
“Growth is likely to be driven by health concerns and the desire for more natural products. The benefits of fruit and veg are becoming common knowledge, and children are getting the message from an early age now.”