While smoothies may be the smallest of the soft drinks categories, it's the fastest growing in value terms. No category has benefited more from the consumer health kick and it's vital you take your share of the profits.
According to this year's Britvic category report, Innocent was the runaway leader with growth of more than 200%. PepsiCo's PJ Smoothies brand also performed well in 2005, up 40% in value. Fruit-based smoothies alone grew by more than 90% to be worth £60m.
An old hat in the juice category but new mover in the smoothies market is Del Monte, which introduced a four-strong range in October 2005.
The company is looking to pursue a 'smoothies for everyone' strategy, as managing director Peter Miller explains: "We're looking to produce smoothies for the mass market. More and more people are out and about, constantly on the go and everyone is being urged to eat a healthier diet. Convenience store retailers are in the perfect position to take advantage of these trends."
Miller expects the category will continue to grow throughout 2006. He adds: "Smoothies are still going great guns with phenomenal year-on-year growth. There has been a lot of activity from the likes of Innocent but I am convinced there is a place for a big brand such as Del Monte."
Those at the category's main player, Innocent, are also confident the smoothies market has a bright future. "Smoothies are growing five times faster then chilled juice," says UK sales controller Giles Brook. "The advantage Innocent has over some other manufacturers is that our smoothies are made from 100% fruit and not from concentrate."
Innocent has a summer TV campaign planned and will continue to launch its seasonal guest recipes. Work is also underway to extend the shelf life of its products.
Brook is calling on the government to make certain products, including smoothies, exempt from VAT, to help drive sales of better-for-you products and bring down prices.
"We believe the government has a role to play to help drive down prices by making smoothies exempt from VAT as a health product," he says. "We would definitely pass any reductions on to the consumer."
The PJ Smoothies brand had a positive 2005 after a £5m makeover by new owners PepsiCo. As well as revamping the eight-product 250ml range, the brand has also built on the success of functional foods with the launch of its super smoothies range. The four products in the range include Daily Detox: mandarin & dragonfruit and Energy Boost: peaches, pineapples & passionfruits'.
PepsiCo trade marketing manager Cara Beeby says: "Functional foods is a rapidly growing market, predicted to grow by 28% by 2008 to £754m. PJ Super Smoothies such as Daily Detox will enable retailers to capitalise on the potential of this market."
Other manufacturers have spotted the potential. The Serious Food Company has launched a branded range of juices and smoothies. Variants cover the dairy, fruit, breakfast and kids sub-categories and are available in 250ml bottles.
While smoothies may only be a small section of the overall soft drinks category, they have certainly made their mark in recent years. Their growth this year alone makes them must-stock items for your chiller.