Plain old fruit juice just doesn't cut it with today's consumer.
Shoppers want juices that are fortified with vitamins and minerals. Some prefer drinks that taste like fruit but also boast a serving of vegetables. Others want concoctions that contain calcium to help beef up their bones.
Whatever the add-in, health and wellness remains the category's core driver, retailers told SN. As a result, last year's fruit juice trends — antioxidants, functional fruits and exotic flavor blends — continue to inspire the development of new products.
One growing segment consists of juices that address specific medical needs, said Carol Gilgunn, category manager for Spartan Stores, Grand Rapids, Mich. Such ailment-focused libations have prompted a certain group of shoppers to forgo pills in lieu of their favorite fruit drink.
“Aging Boomers have become very health-conscious, and are the perfect consumer for fortified juice items, because they read labels and even look for items to cure their health issues naturally, without the use and side effects of medications,” said Gilgunn.
Indeed, shoppers want natural remedies nowadays, said Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys, New York. To accommodate the demand, fruit drink makers are creating juices that address medical matters that are highlighted in the media.
“Antioxidants have been talked about a lot in recent years, so they are popping up everywhere,” said Passikoff. “Vitamin C has been popular for a while, and vitamin D is starting to catch on too. Calcium is also being covered heavily in the media, so it makes sense that it has been added to a lot of products.”
Sales of shelf-stable juice drinks with “vitamin/mineral” claims on the package increased 4.1% to $2.8 billion during the 52 weeks ending March 22, according to the Nielsen Co., Chicago. Juices with “fortified” claims on the package also rose during that time, climbing 5.2% to $114.6 million.
Many manufacturers are centering their new products on the latest fruit or berry craze. Some are even throwing a few veggies into the mix.
“Consumers are looking for nutritional benefits in what they drink, so they are choosing drinks with both fruits and vegetables or other juices made with cranberry, pomegranate, grapes, acai, goji berries and other healthy ingredients,” said Gilgunn.
The entire line of V8 beverages is popular at Spartan. The drink maker's V-Fusion collection, which combines one serving of vegetables and one serving of fruit in each bottle, sells particularly well. Varieties include Pomegranate Blueberry, Strawberry Banana, Tropical Orange, Peach Mango and Acai Mixed Berry.
“Our shoppers are looking at vitamin-enhanced products, antioxidants, added fiber, anything that helps with digestion, green tea, B vitamins, beta carotene, vitamin C and less sugar, to name just a few benefits,” noted Gilgunn. “Current brands that support this are Campbell's (V8), Old Orchard, Nestlé's (Juicy Juice), Northland, Welch's and Ocean Spray.”
Ocean Spray's latest entry, Cranergy, contains several of the ingredients Gilgunn listed, including cranberries; green tea extract; five B vitamins, which support healthy energy function; and vitamin C, which helps boost the immune system. The beverage comes in Cranberry Lift and Raspberry Cranberry Lift flavors and has 35 calories per serving.
Price Chopper Supermarkets, Schenectady, N.Y., is currently promoting Cranergy on its website. The cranberry-based beverage is highlighted on the “Jane Golub's New Items” page — an online section that touts new item introductions picked by Jane Golub, director of vendor income programs for Golub Corp., the parent company of Price Chopper.
At Piggly Wiggly, Keene, N.H., the selection of fortified juices is seemingly endless, said Rita Postell, spokeswoman for the chain.
“We have calcium-enriched orange juice from Tropicana, V8, V8 V-Fusion and a bunch of others,” she told SN.
Shoppers like having a lot of choices, especially in the beverage aisles. But having too many options can create havoc for both consumers and retailers, said John Rodwan, editorial director at Beverage Marketing Corp., New York.
“This poses a problem, because shelf space is already an issue,” he said. “So, when new ingredients are added that fit into several categories, retailers don't know where to put them in their stores or how to communicate with consumers about them.”
This blurring of categories is occurring throughout the store, not just among beverages, noted Ted Taft, managing director, Meridian Consulting, Westport, Conn.
Taft cited tea as a prime example. The popular ingredient has shown up in everything from ice cream and gum to shampoo, water and fruit juice in recent years.
V8, too, has muddled things in the drink aisle. The brand used to be centered on vegetables until the company came out with Splash. Now it has V-Fusion too, which has both fruits and vegetables, he said.
“Having such great products to choose from is great, but it makes this such a tough category, because traditional boundaries are rapidly eroding,” he noted.
Jim Hertel, managing partner at Willard Bishop, Barrington, Ill., urges retailers to seize the opportunity to incorporate functional fruit juices into their overall health and wellness campaigns. However, he recommends limiting their focus to those most likely to fare well.
“From a promotional perspective, many of these items require information and can benefit from in-store demos and educational materials, so it helps if retailers focus on a select few,” said Hertel.
Spartan has been capitalizing on the opportunity. The chain frequently promotes fruit juices as part of a consumer's daily nutrition routine, said Gilgunn. Certain drinks are even cross-merchandised to emphasize the value of a holistic health approach.
“We look for secondary placements near the pharmacy when applicable,” she said.
Spartan also hands out educational literature related to the health benefits of juices in its pharmacy departments.
At the shelf, Spartan's planograms are set in vertical blocks based on segment and life stage. Hawaiian Punch, Juicy Juice and Twister are lumped together as kids' concoctions. For the family, there are juices made with grapefruit, prunes and tomatoes, as well as all of V8's vegetable and fruit blends, Gilgunn told SN.
While exotic ingredients and functionality are enticing to shoppers, some are concerned about the impact of these new fruit drinks on their wallets and waistlines.
“Fruit juice is a lot more expensive than water, and in economic conditions like these, where people are really watching their grocery bills, this type of product isn't purchased as often,” said Rodwan.
Another potential barrier is caloric content. Even lighter versions of health-conscious shoppers' favorite fruit infusions are less likely to be purchased than no-calorie water, he said.
Neither issue appears to be stopping shoppers at Highland Park Market, Glastonbury, Conn. According to Tim Cummiskey, grocery manager for the retailer's South Windsor store, if local consumers see a perceived health benefit in a beverage, they are willing to lay down the cash.
“People here don't seem to mind spending money on a fruit juice if they truly believe that they will be healthier after drinking one,” he said. “In fact, they probably would choose to not purchase another item so they could afford to get a healthy drink if they are committed to being healthier.”
Because it's located in a high-end market, Highland Park's customers aren't often worried about the almighty dollar anyway. The retailer even sells enough Himalayan Goji Juice at $17.00 per 1-liter bottle to warrant keeping it in stores, added Cummiskey. More reasonably priced potions making waves there are Snapple's new single-serve Goji Punch Immunity and Noni Berry Metabolism.
There are also plenty of fruit drink options for those who are watching their weight, he said.
Welch's makes a light version of its Berry Juice Cocktail with half the calories, sugar and carbs. V8 Splash has diet offerings in Berry Blend and Tropical Blend flavors. The light drinks have only 10 calories per 8-ounce serving, compared with the 70 or 80 calories in one serving of regular Splash.
Along with cost and caloric content, consumers are concerned about convenience, said Ted Zittell, partner, McMillan Doolittle, Chicago. Nutrition on the go, he said, is a growing trend that will likely influence product introductions in the fruit drink category going forward.
Zittell expects this demand to prompt the making of more single-serve fortified fruit juices in the future.
Store brands grew their share of the whole milk and bottled water categories.
|PRIVATE-LABEL CATEGORY||$ SALES*||% CHANGE VS. YEAR AGO||% OF CATEGORY|
|Convenience/PET Bottled Water||$50.5M||7.2%||16.3%|
|Source: Information Resources Inc. |
* Sales in food, drug and mass channels for the four weeks ending March 23.