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Beverages to get some ‘juice’ as consumers focus on health


Finding a bright spot in the beverage category can be daunting. The category has been hammered by changing consumer tastes, a soft economy and rising commodity pricing. “The entire beverage industry is performing tepidly,” said John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest.

Industry experts agreed that consumers are looking beyond carbonated beverages and bottled water for new beverage experiences. Juice is a segment poised for growth. “The health-and-wellness space is a space to watch,” Sicher said. “There’s a lot of innovation in the juice and juice drink area.”

Gary Hemphill, SVP at Beverage Marketing Corp.’s information services division, also expected innovation in the juice category to fuel growth. “The marketplace has moved to an era of specialization and to fine-tuned niche products that target specific consumers and need states. That’s where the growth will be in the category overall,” he said. “There’s been a lot of innovation in niche products in the juice category, particularly around unique fruits that are high in antioxidants.”

Hemphill said that during the past year, the juice category suffered from a challenged economy. “Juice tends to be more expensive than other beverage segments, so it was impacted more heavily by the soft economy,” he said.

Despite higher prices, growth of refrigerated juices outpaced the industry average. Sales of refrigerated juice in the drug store channel jumped nearly 10% to $66.6 million for the 52 weeks ended May 17, according to Information Resources Inc.

Juice and drink smoothie dollar sales spiked nearly 128% for the same period in the drug channel. In fact, industry experts said they expected premium-priced juices to drive category growth going forward.

Thom Blischok, president of consulting and innovation at IRI said he believed growth in the category will come from new superfruit drinks and from innovative packaging. Blischok believed healthy, sugar-free juices, diabetic-friendly juices, juice shakes and juice sodas are all areas of opportunity. “There may be more interest in dairy/juice drinks,” he said.

Los Angeles-based Bossa Nova Beverage Group has broadened its acai product line with the introduction of 10 new superfruit juices. Each juice is lightly sweetened with low-glycemic-index agave so that each 10-oz. bottle contains about 100 calories.

Bossa Nova CEO Alton Johnson said sales were up 50% over last year. “A lot of consumers expect food to have nutritional benefits,” he said. Drug store consumers are even more likely to be looking for those benefits, he said. Bossa Nova is carried in some CVS and Walgreens locations.

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