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The challenge: an ambient category of juicy opportunity.

Cracker has its work cut out. There might be rich pickings in the juices and smoothies category--19% growth last year pushed it through the 1bn [pounds sterling] barrier. But strong competition and the dominance of two major players will present significant challenges.

PepsiCo's Tropicana brand is by far the biggest player and, at 205m [pounds sterling], is more than twice the value of its closest rival, Innocent, which still has healthy sales of more than 80m [pounds sterling].

PepsiCo's PJ Smoothies brand and Coca-Cola Enterprises' Minute Maid are also experiencing huge growth. Both saw value rises of more than 100% in the latest year.

Some of the smaller players are beginning to make their mark too. Last year, Del Monte hunched a chilled range of juices under its Juice Bar brand, while a range of 100% pulped-fruit juices called I Am Fresh was developed by Orchard House Foods.

Competition is also coming thick and fast from the soya category. The latest brand to enter the fray is Unilever's Adez--a blend of soya protein and fruit juice.

Three of the top-five brands--Tropicana, Copella and Innocent--are present only in the chilled category. However, more manufacturers are starting to recognise the benefits of launching into the ambient sector where pricing is competitive and innovation has been relatively thin on the ground until recently.

Stute started the ball roiling back in February last year when it hunched a range of ambient smoothies in two flavours. And new supplier The Smoothie Company entered the category in February this year with a range that has a 12-month shelf life. It is competitively priced between 79p and 99p. The drinks come in mangoes & oranges and raspberries & peaches variants.

Last month, Britvic announced it would hunch a range of smooth juice drinks aimed at children in June.

In January, Australian drink company Sunraysia hunched its Crush brand which, like Cracker, is made from crushed fruit blended with water.
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Title Annotation:on the up
Date:Mar 3, 2007
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