Can health, flavor, packaging trends 'juice' performance?

Articles
November 12, 2010

Can health, flavor, packaging trends 'juice' performance?

Juice lives multiple lives in the supermarket - in the cool confines of the refrigerated case, in the warmer environs of shelf-stable products, and in the frigid air behind frozen doors.

Juice lives multiple lives in the supermarket - in the cool confines of the refrigerated case, in the warmer environs of shelf-stable products, and in the frigid air behind frozen doors. Each product form suits a different eating occasion, and different budget and storage strategies at home. As expected, they have different performance profiles in the recession.

Helping the refrigerated segment: For the past year, the California Women's Infants and Children program has included any 64-ounce brand of pasteurized, ready-to-drink 100% juice with 120% of the daily requirement of Vitamin C, rather than a single designated brand, Bob Lutz, the procurement vice president for wholesaler Unified Grocers, told Supermarket News recently.

A separate push for the shelf-stable segment: the urgency of the White House to encourage people to eat at least five servings of vegetables daily. The inherent nature of juice helps with that - although juice manufacturers have also aimed to differentiate their lines and make items more healthful by reducing calories and adding nutritional enhancements to many varieties.

The next phase of product improvement, F3 believes, could be the selective import of flavor trends from abroad. The global research firm Canadean picks lemon as the next top flavor worldwide, displacing orange, in its Flavour Trends in Juice and Iced Tea Drinks Report. Asian nations like lemon iced tea; in China and India, lemon still drinks are popular; a carbonated lemon soda is growing fast in Turkey; and lemon-flavored sweetened waters are preferred in eastern Europe, noted a UK Independent account.

The degree to which lemon captivates the United States juice market is an open question, but the flavor could influence the market because of the growing numbers of foreigners who live in the U.S.

Package changes represent another potential plus in juices, especially in shelf-stable, where aseptic packs, screw-cap containers, multipack bottles add convenience and choice. There's talk too that the Tang powdered drink may be acquired from Kraft Foods by private investors and repackaged as a single-serve, noted Fast Company.

Despite these developments in the juice category, neither the refrigerated, shelf-stable nor frozen segments posted stellar performance during the recession - even though the beverage is a staple. Over successive 52-week periods between September 7, 2008 and September 4, 2010, the shelf-stable juices and drinks segment saw dollar sales dip twice, first by 1.2% and again by 0.5% to end the most recent period at $9.22 billion, according to Nielsen data. These results occurred in U.S. food, drug and mass merchandiser stores (including Walmart), and they represent prepackaged, UPC-coded products only.

By contrast, the second-largest segment, refrigerated juices and drinks, dropped by 1.0% a year ago, but eked out a 0.5% rebound to $4.77 billion in the latest 52-week period. And the smallest segment, frozen juices and drinks, fell the most on a percentage basis; its dollar sales were off by 3.4% a year ago and by 8.7% to $478.8 million in the latest period.

Through it all, brands managed to increase their shares slightly over private label slightly - to 87.2% in shelf-stable, 88.1% in refrigerated, and 66.6% in frozen, Nielsen noted.