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A Juicy Future.

Byline: Michal Christine Escobar

Retailers that cater to the health and wellness trend with store brand better-for-you juices are most likely to see future growth.

From 2007 to 2012, the overall volume of fruit juice and juice drink consumption in the United States grew a modest 5.2 percent, reports Packaged Facts, a division of Rockville, Md.-based MarketResearch.com, in its April 2013 "Fruit and Vegetable Juices -- U.S." report. However, Packaged Facts estimates that in the next few years, a number of factors will combine to create conditions favorable to accelerated market growth. One factor that may be of particular interest to retailers is the introduction of premium, high-profit better-for-you juice products aimed at attracting health-conscious consumers. These consumers are looking for lower calories, less sugar and added health benefits from their juice consumption.

Watch the sugar

Juice and juice drinks have earned a reputation for being high-sugar, high-calorie beverages. But the category seems to be headed for a health and wellness makeover.

"Across the entire juice category, consumers are telling us that they are seeking health and wellness benefits from juice," says David Kirkpatrick, president and COO of The Fave Juice Co., Middletown, N.J.

His company-conducted research that found that consumers are very specific in what they want from a "healthful" juice beverage. For one thing, they want full servings of fruit and/or vegetables. For another, they want only 100 percent juice content. And they especially want juices that are low in sugar, calories and carbs, without any added sweeteners.

Consumers are so concerned about sugar in juice and juice drinks that global market researcher Mintel, in its November 2013 "Juice and Juice Drinks -- US" report, notes that 34 percent of respondents to its consumer survey do not drink or have reduced their consumption of juice and/or juice drinks because they contain too much sugar.

The Packaged Facts report adds that according to Simmons NCS data, the number of households using diet juices grew 40 percent between 2007 and 2012.

Orange juice, in particular, seems to be a juice that consumers are concerned about due to its high sugar content, reports Euromonitor International, Chicago, in its July 2013 "Fruit/Vegetable Juice in the US" report. However, Vince Petrucci, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Silver Springs Citrus Inc., Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla., doesn't think the beverage deserves a bad reputation.

Although 100 percent orange juice may be high in sugar, those sugars are natural and not added sweeteners, Petrucci says. Plus, orange juice provides consumers with vitamins such as vitamin C, folic acid, thiamin and phytochemicals, which have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and prostate cancer.

But not all juices are naturally sweet like orange juice. And with juices that are naturally tart, retailers might turn off sugar-conscious shoppers by sweetening them with sugar. Therefore, retailers should consider sweetening these juices by adding naturally sweeter juices, says Beth Wierzbicki, senior director marketing and category management for Carneys Point, N.J.-based Clement Pappas & Company Inc.

Speaking of adding to juices, functional shelf-stable juices fortified with protein provide retailers with a way to take the juice category to the next level of health and wellness, she says. Various national brands are finding ways to add protein to their products -- such as Naked with its refrigerated smoothies -- and Clement Pappas has developed something unique to help retailers get ahead of the game.

"We're bringing protein to the shelf-stable juice category," Wierzbicki says. "We're trying to be a progressive private brand supplier. This product is not a national brand equivalent. It is innovative, and it allows retailers to demonstrate to consumers that they are aware of this trend."

Petrucci says that retailers who are willing to take risks with their juice and juice-flavored products are more likely to see huge benefits.

"We've produced several new and innovative items that cannot be found with the major national brands, and they have become huge sellers for our retailers," he says. "Being unique and exclusive can provide opportunity for higher profit margins, as there is no brand standard to compare to."

Juice blend trends

Turning away from single-fruit juices, juice blends are becoming more popular today especially as a way to expand existing lines and differentiate brands.

Wierzbicki notes that with the rise of the Hispanic population, mango is beginning to stand on its own as a flavor, while blended citrus flavors such as mango/pineapple/orange are becoming more popular. Additionally, millennials, with their sophisticated palates and access to cooking channels and the Internet, are creating a market for unique and exotic flavors. For retailers looking to attract this demographic, she suggests blending a traditional juice such as cranberry with an "exotic" component such as tea.

Coconut water, blended with juice, could also become a hot trend in the next few years. As a 100 percent natural juice, coconut water is a good source of calcium, magnesium, electrolytes and potassium, while also being low in calories, Euromonitor states.

"[Coconut water] has massive potential for growth, as the benefits of coconut water are very much aligned with the health and wellness movement in the U.S.," it adds.

Plus, if retailers look at what the top soft drink manufacturers in the United States are doing, they will see that three of them -- the Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo and Dr Pepper Snapple Group -- all have an investment of some sort in coconut water manufacturers, Euromonitor notes.

Fruit and vegetable blends could be another area for store brand growth in the juice category. Mintel reports that 49 percent of surveyed consumers said they drink juice and juice drinks to increase their fruit and/or vegetable intake. Additionally, 46 percent of respondents said they drink juice and juice drinks to increase their intake of vitamins and/or minerals.

And as retailers look to the more distant future, they might want to consider beet juice and cacao juice, which might become the next big things in the category, the Packaged Facts report says. Beet juice seems to be gaining a reputation, thanks to Olympic athletes, as a legal performance enhancer, while cacao juice is said to provide a hearty dose of antioxidants while being low in calories. As for flavors, the Packaged Facts report states that there seems to be a growing demand for spicy juices that include ingredients such as chipotle and cayenne peppers.

Drive product awareness

But regardless of what retailers put on their shelves, if shoppers aren't aware of the product, it will go ignored. To capture the shopper's attention, retailers could use well-thought-out messaging and merchandising. Shelf signage or callouts on the product label, for example, could describe a products origins and more, Petrucci says.

Everything a retailer does should be to help drive awareness, especially if it's an innovative product, Wierzbicki says. This could be something as simple as an end-cap display or a technology program that drives consumers to visit the stores.

"All of the marketing mix elements a retailer uses to promote its own brands should be integrated and tied together so the impact of that promotion becomes more powerful and helps the retailer break through to the consumer," she adds.

Do drive awareness of store brand juices with a combination of marketing efforts.

Don't assume that adding sugar is the only way to sweeten a not-so-sweet juice.

Do consider adding beverages with coconut water to your store brand lineup.

Don't ignore the rising popularity of functional juices fortified with protein.

Look what's new

New from Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans Food Markets is Wegmans Light Orange Juice Beverage. Made with vitamins and free from pulp, it contains 50 percent fewer calories and less sugar than regular orange juice. It is free from gluten, artificial colors and flavors, preservatives and lactose. This vegan product retails in a Sustainable Forestry Initiative-certified 59-fl.-oz. carton.

Now available from Toronto-based Shoppers Drug Mart is Simply Food 100% Acai Blueberry Juice Blend. This beverage is a blend of apple, pear, elderberry, acai and blueberry juices from concentrate. Made with added citric acid and vitamin C and free from artificial flavors and colors, this certified kosher product retails in a recyclable 1.89L plastic bottle.

Source: Mintel's Global New Products Database
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Author:Escobar, Michal Christine
Publication:Progressive Grocer's Store Brands
Date:May 1, 2014
Words:1519
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