The increase in the number of new 'real juice' drinks or reduced and no-added sugar variants has gathered pace with the decision by many of schools to monitor more tightly what pupils are consuming throughout the day. The trend has also led to an increase in the number of lunchbox-compatible drinks that parents are happy to give their children.
Princes Soft Drinks, which produces a number of children's drinks including the Jucee range, says squashes, juice-based and other better-for-you drinks are enjoying increased sales.
"Squash is definitely in a renaissance where Princes is concerned," says marketing director David Patmore. "The increasing amount of no-added or reduced sugar variants has seen mums buy squash as a healthy, long drink.
"Parents do not want kids' drinks with added vitamin C or anything that they feel has been artificially introduced. They are looking for pure and natural ingredients, hence the rise in popularity of juices and smoothies as lunchbox alternatives."
Patmore believes a number of drink formats could suffer if possible legislation banning some drinks from schools goes ahead. "Only water, flavoured milks and fruit juices are currently being positioned to be allowed to be sold. The long-term impact of this is likely to be positive for those categories but negative for the carbonates market."
PepsiCo trade marketing manager Cara Beeby also believes health and naturalness are the attributes parents look for when selecting soft drinks for their children. PepsiCo recently responded by launching a 70% juice drink - Tropicana Go. "The fact that Tropicana Go is additive free and high in vitamin C will give parents peace of mind," explains Beeby.
Sales of Britvic's main player in the kids' drinks category, Robinsons Fruit Shoot, continued to grow in 2005. Sales were up 11% with the drink now worth £74m. The sports-capped 300ml and 200ml bottles now come in five flavours after a
no-added sugar tropical variant was added last summer. It's also worth noting AC Nielsen's Homescan figures that show Robinsons Fruit Shoot is consumed by 44% of households with children.
Two brands working hard to change perceptions are Panda and Sunny D. The Panda brand was revamped in April by Vimto Soft Drinks and now boasts real fruit juice, no artificial colours or preservatives and no added sugar.
Vimto Soft Drinks managing director Glenn Hudson explains: "Our review identified that children liked the fun, colours and the range of flavours and mum wanted a fun brand without the high sugar, artificial colours or flavours."
The company is also supporting its Vimto range with a new TV ad hitting screens on May 8. A new apple variant dilute has been added to the Vimto portfolio after a successful trial of an orange flavour. Further brand activity includes a 'taste me free' promotion on 725ml and 1ltr dilutes.
Sunny D's new owner Gerber Foods is looking to restore faith in the brand. An advisory group run by parents has been set up to offer their views on the drink, while fresh activity in June will better communicate the brand's qualities. A new formulation, packaging and an orange & pineapple variant will be introduced as part of the makeover.
Also hoping to grab the attention of mums is Coca-Cola's Capri-Sun range, which now comes in a resealable 330ml pouch. It will be supported by a £2m media campaign this year.