A CONCENTRATED, STABLE SUCCESS

Shelf-stable concentrates are expanding in the juice aisle.Products from Welch's, Mott's and Ocean Spray are increasingly finding favor with both consumers and retailers. Several retailers have had to expand the space devoted to the concentrates because of increased consumer demand and an increased offering from the major manufacturers.Although shelf-stable concentrates have been around for decades,

Shelf-stable concentrates are expanding in the juice aisle.

Products from Welch's, Mott's and Ocean Spray are increasingly finding favor with both consumers and retailers. Several retailers have had to expand the space devoted to the concentrates because of increased consumer demand and an increased offering from the major manufacturers.

Although shelf-stable concentrates have been around for decades, until a few years ago their distribution was limited to places like the Caribbean, where their light weight found favor with consumers who did not want to pay extra shipping charges for having water added to a product.

One major manufacturer reports that the concentrates actually cost more to make than traditional bottled juice or frozen concentrates because the product must be heated to an exact degree during the canning process. Also, unlike a frozen, canned or bottled juice, which has a lifetime of several years, the shelf-stable concentrates will last only for about seven months before they start to turn. Nonetheless, the shelf-stable concentrates are proving to be a hit with consumers.

"The shelf-stable concentrates are doing very well, with increases of 30% to 40%; they are helping to grow the category," said Gary Evey, a spokesman for Spartan Stores, Grand Rapids, Mich.

"More manufacturers are moving to shelf-stable concentrates, most recently Juicy Juice," said Steve Heggelke, director of merchandising at Bozzuto's, the Cheshire, Conn.-based wholesaler.

"While this packaging has not yet replaced any ready-to-drink products, it certainly may have that ability as consumer awareness and comfort levels grow," he said.

Emil Oles, category manager at Genuardi's Family Markets, Norristown, Pa., describes sales of the shelf-stable concentrates as "very strong." Because of their popularity, Genuardi's has dedicated top shelf space in its juice aisle for the full assortment of concentrate products.

"They have been a real incremental sale to the grocery department," Oles said. "It is plus sales. You can pantry load an item like that and also you have something to fall back on for the kids."

Oles said concentrates have a greater exposure in the grocery aisle than their cousins in the freezer case.

"It seems to be very popular for us to have that type of product in the grocery, where normally people would have to buy concentrate as a frozen," he said.

Pat Redmond, grocery buyer at Rosauers Supermarkets, Spokane, Wash., said the Welch's JuiceMakers line is having "tremendous" success causing him to expand the footage allotted to the line to allow for more flavors.

"I think the commercial for Welch's with that little girl has helped their sales. It has been very, very popular," he said.

Retailers said the shorter shelf life of the shelf-stable concentrates has not been a problem, largely because of swift movement and a gravity-fed racking system that makes it easy to rotate the product.

"The racking system really helps the rotation, and I have not had any consumer feedback about close-coded or out-of-code date product," said Oles.