Dismissed by some as a fad, smoothies are still selling well.

For anyone wanting to get their government-recommended five portions of fruit or veg a day in one hit, a smoothie could be the answer.

That’s because they provide fruit in a convenient, no-mess format. And that’s what makes them so popular. Mintel estimates the total smoothies market was worth around £70m in 2004, and is still enjoying rapid growth.

Fruit smoothies are the big sellers, accounting for 77% of sales in 2003. Dairy smoothies continue to face stiff competition from yogurt and probiotic drinks.

There have been countless smoothie launches but only two brands have made a significant impact: PJ and Innocent. Kate Bingham of PJ reckons smoothies offer great sales potential for c-stores.

She says: “The smoothie sector in convenience stores is an area of great growth, especially in regions other than London where, up until recently, consumers haven’t been as conscious of the benefits of a smoothie.

“With growing awareness of the health benefits of fresh fruit and vegetables, consumers know that a 100% fruit smoothie such as PJ is a good thing and is therefore a must for the daily shopping basket. People are replacing their lunchtime carbonated drinks with something healthier. Different lines sell better in different regions, so the educated smoothie buyer will sometimes opt for a functional smoothie whereas the first time buyer or infrequent buyer will go for a standard strawberries & banana or oranges & mango.”

Bingham disagrees that price is a barrier to sales of smoothies. She says: “Price is not a barrier to most and there are often promotions in convenience stores to encourage the consumer to trial smoothies, and we find these work very well.”

Each PJ fruit smoothie contains two whole portions of fruit. The current range comprises two new varieties - apples & blackcurrants and oranges & mango. There’s strawberries & bananas, pineapples, bananas & coconuts and peaches, bananas & passionfruits.

There are also three functional smoothies: Energy Boost, which contains the natural stimulant guarana plus 10 vitamins; Daily Detox, which contains milk thistle extract to reduce the flow of toxins to the liver and ginger to help stimulate the digestive system; and Mega Vit C, which aims to fight off colds and flu thanks to its mega vitamin C content and its selenium and zinc.

Finally, PJs offers what it calls ‘breakfast in a bottle’ via its fruit and yogurt smoothies. These are made with low fat yogurt and come in two varieties, blackcurrant and strawberry.

Meanwhile, Innocent has launched a smoothie range for kids that contains fruit, pure juice and nothing else.

Lucy Thomas, taste bud at Innocent, explains: “We’ve been making natural fruit drinks for a few years now but we noticed that there didn’t seem to be any healthy drinks specifically for kids. Our smoothies for kids come in two recipes made with slightly sweeter fruits to appeal to the younger palate: apples & blackcurrants; and oranges, mangoes & pineapples. The recipes consist of 100% pure crushed fruit with no additives, preservatives or concentrates. Each drink provides 100% RDA of vitamin C and one full portion of fruit.”

The drinks are packaged in 180ml Tetra Pak wedges with a straw, and are available singly or in multipacks of four. To make them easier to suck up the straw, they have a thinner consistency than Innocent’s usual smoothies, and there are no ‘bits’.

Packaging features a colourful gang of ‘dude’ characters to give the drinks extra kid-appeal and there’s a website (www.innocentkids.co.uk). They are primarily aimed at 7-11-year-olds but Innocent has found them to be popular with younger children too.
Also available from Innocent is a new guest smoothie.

The idea is to get Innocent’s fresh ideas out of its development kitchens and into the shops as fast as possible. So the first guest smoothie is pineapples, blueberries & ginger. However, the seasonal smoothie is still available and this season’s is cherries & strawberries.

Although research company Mintel reports that smoothie sales will continue to grow, it does flag up two barriers to increasing smoothie penetration: the expense of the product when compared to basic fruit juice; and the lack of product refreshment.

Mintel believes that to overcome this, smoothies should be considered more as a fruit product and less as a drink so they should be marketed as ‘hassle-free fruit’ rather than a fruit juice alternative.

An interesting thought but does that mean you have to move them from the drinks chiller and next to the fruit? Or simply add some thought-provoking pos? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, watch the grocery mults and see what they do.

THE ONLY WAY IS UP, says Yazoo
Yazoo’s status as the UK’s number one flavoured milk drink (MISL data year ending December 2004) makes it a must stock line for c-stores.

Chris Collis, director of marketing at parent company Campina, says: “Yazoo is a favourite with kids because it tastes great. And mums love it because they know their kids are getting all of the goodness of milk. Even white van drivers choose Yazoo over other soft drinks because it’s less gassy and less gloopy.”

Collis says it’s a strong seller in independents because of this large target audience.

Yazoo’s nutritional values include calcium for strong teeth, milk protein for body strength, vitamin B2 and B12 for the release of energy, plus it’s low in fat and contains no artificial sweeteners or preservatives.

A big benefit for retailers is that it’s heat-treated so it has a longer life than many other milk drinks and can be kept in normal storeroom conditions prior to going on shelf. In-store it can be stocked on an ambient shelf, but it tastes best chilled, so the impulse 500ml size is best merchandised in the chiller. The drink is also available in 1ltr and four x 200ml sizes.

For this summer, Yazoo is available in Marvin the Magician promotional packs where consumers get the chance to win one of 10,000 official Marvin magic sets. The promotion is supported by an extensive marketing campaign including six sheet posters on school runs, outside 1,200 c-stores and at 400 leisure centres as well as via an on-line MSN campaign.

Says Collis: “The promotion is the latest in a line of new developments for Yazoo that will drive the continued success of the brand and the flavoured milk category as a whole.”

These new developments include refreshed packaging featuring an upbeat milk-swirl design that also appears in all advertising activity. In addition, the chocolate flavour drink has been upgraded with a new recipe which means it tastes even more chocolatey.