Healthier, organic juices squeeze into drink segment

NEW YORK —High costs and a high caloric count have spelled trouble for the juice category. At a time when consumers are watching their wallets, as well as their waistlines, juice has not been the beverage of choice for many.

Sales of refrigerated juices and drinks dipped 0.75% to $4.3 billion across food, drug and mass (excluding Walmart) for the 52-week period ended May 6, according to SymphonyIRI Group.

Cost played a part in the sales decline. A recent study by Mintel found that among adults who are drinking less juice drinks compared with a year ago, 65% reported that they are cutting down on consumption to save on grocery bills due to the recession.

Mintel’s study also found that the presence of high-fructose corn syrup continues to tarnish the healthy image of fruit juice drinks. The study found that 21% of consumers who don’t drink fruit juice drinks stay away from those beverages because they contain high-fructose corn syrup. Of juice drinkers, 31% specifically look for products that do not contain high-fructose corn syrup.

Manufacturers have been responding by offering healthier choices in the category. Duane Reade, for example, carries Purity Organic juices and Langer’s juices, which carry the “no high-fructose corn syrup” claim prominently on their labels.

In a flat category, sales of Purity Organic juices have increased 50% over last year. “The gains are due to the combination of our accessible price point and our organic ingredients,” said Purity brand manager Sara Clow. “We’ve brought well-priced organic juice to the mass market.”

Juices with a better-for-you profile are the bright spot in the category. Mintel reported that over the past two years, refrigerated juice-drink brands with functional attributes exhibited impressive gains.

Why consumers don’t buy juice drinksSource: Mintel International
REASONPERCENTAGE
Contains added sugar28%
Expensive21
Contains high-fructose corn syrup21
Too caloric18
Doesn’t quench thirst16
Prefer other drinks16
Contains artificial flavors14

“The growth of functional platform in juice drinks offers an opportunity for juice-drink makers to target price-sensitive but health-conscious consumers who may otherwise view the segment as unhealthy,” Mintel’s report said.

Mintel cited such products as acai juice-based drinks (Sambazon), probiotic fruit drinks (GoodBelly), energy boost and hunger delay (Fuze Slenderize) and super-premium with a pro-health position (Bolthouse Farms) as growth areas.

It’s not just specialty brands that are enhancing their products. Minute Maid recently introduced Minute Maid Enhanced, a line of nutritious chilled juices and juice drinks that combine juice with specific nutritional benefits. Additionally, Dr Pepper Snapple Group’s Mott’s Medleys, which provides two fruit and veggie servings in each 8-oz. glass, hit retail shelves this spring.

“Moms are particularly concerned about their kids’ sugar intake, often diluting 100% juice at home before serving,” said Allison Methvin, Mott’s brand marketing director. Mott’s for Tots has 40% less sugar but 100% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C.

More growth in the category likely will come from watered-down juice products positioned as “healthy thirst quenchers” or “high-nutrition natural thirst quenchers” in single-serve bottles to compete with enhanced bottled water, according to Mintel.

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