ARONIA BERRY JUICE MAKING A BIG SPLASH

SAN FRANCISCO -- Retailers may want to make room for a new item on their juice shelves, which they can be put next to the cranberry juice.Aronia berry juice cocktail is being billed as a new fruit drink that has all the benefits of cranberries, but with a milder taste. Although native to North America, aronia berries have not been grown commercially in the U.S. since the turn of the century. They

SAN FRANCISCO -- Retailers may want to make room for a new item on their juice shelves, which they can be put next to the cranberry juice.

Aronia berry juice cocktail is being billed as a new fruit drink that has all the benefits of cranberries, but with a milder taste. Although native to North America, aronia berries have not been grown commercially in the U.S. since the turn of the century. They are now being imported into the U.S. from the Masuran Lakelands region of Poland by Aronia Berry here.

Aronia Berry sells its juice under the Wildland brand name in Costco Wholesale Clubs, where sales have been brisk. Aronia berry juice cocktail was being sampled in an Edison, N.J., Costco visited recently by SN, and many shoppers were placing gallon bottles of aronia cocktail in their shopping carts after the sampling.

Victor Gallegos, president, Aronia Berry, Inc., told SN the 1-year-old company has recently begun supermarket distribution in the Pacific Northwest and California with a goal of having national supermarket distribution within a year. Albertson's and QFC are among the chains selling the Wildland brand.

"Aronia is quite well-known in Eastern Europe, where it is used medicinally. There is a whole body of research on the health benefits of aronia," Gallegos said.

"Right now there is some research going on at the University of Illinois Functional Foods Program which is looking to confirm some preliminary suggestions that aronia might include some compounds that fight cancer and cardiac disease," he added.

In addition to the regular Aronia Berry Juice Cocktail, Aronia Berry also markets Aronia Grape, Aronia Strawberry and Aronia Cherry. Aronia Raspberry is the newest flavor now being introduced.

Then new drink is packaged in bottles ranging from 16-ounces to one gallon. Gallegos said Costco is in the process of switching the product sold in its stores to a dual 96-ounce grip bottle, from the 128-ounce container.

"The berry itself has some very high levels of beneficial nutrients, like anthocyanins, antioxidants, polyphenols and flavonoids, which have some very positive effects on the circulatory system, and it is good for the urinary tract, similar to cranberry juice," Gallegos said.

"Our selling proposition is that aronia has all of the wellness attributes of the cranberry, plus a lot more," he added.