Juice drinks may be battling against the might of pure juice but developments are driving up consumer demand

In a world where consumers are trading up from ambient to chilled juices it would be fair to presume that ambient juice drinks must have been having a tough time. Yet the success story of Pomegreat, the pomegranate drink that has taken the market by storm, belies any notion that ambient is not a thriving area.

"We have done what Ocean Spray did ten years ago and brought real excitement to both the ambient and juice drink sectors," says Adam Pritchard, founder of brand owner RJA Foods. "We have competed against the giants that have not innovated and we have succeeded.

"We created a category and everyone else is following, which is obviously very flattering."

And following they are. Ocean Spray is adding a cranberry & pomegranate juice drink to its range at the end of this month, as well as a cranberry & blueberry variant, both of which will come in one-litre packs.

Jonathan Duffin, business development and brand manager for UK drinks, says: "Consumer awareness of pomegranate and blueberry has escalated due to their high levels of antioxidants and both are enjoying the success that we experienced in the 1990s when the benefits of cranberry juice first became known. It is a natural step to blend cranberry with these popular fruits."

Commercial director Jamie Robinson adds that the company's recent focus on white cranberry juices has not worked as well as it would have liked and so the emphasis will now shift back on to Cranberry Classic and Light as well as the two new flavours.

GlaxoSmithKline has also seen the natural fit of blueberry and the fruit is the latest ready to drink variety to join the Ribena Really Light range of juice drinks this month. Anne McCaig, category marketing director, believes that this variant offers many opportunities. "We have found that baby boomers are fond of our brand but we need to give them a reason to drink it," she says.

"By offering new flavours and more impulse formats we can give the consumer what they want. People don't always want a 100% fruit juice at lunchtime and we believe we can offer a more refreshing alternative."

Last month's news that PepsiCo is taking its Tropicana brand into kids drinks for the first time with the launch of Tropicana Go! should also boost the chilled juice drink market. Launching early this month, the juices are 70% fruit juice and 30% water with added vitamin C. Tropicana claims that it is the first mainstream children's juice drink with "no nasties whatsoever", and that it has already stolen listing away from rival Sunny D in Asda and Coca-Cola's Minute Maid brand in Booker.

According to Coca-Cola Enterprises, however, Minute Maid has got off to a strong start. The company claims that it is already drunk in 1.4 million households, while TNS singles it out as having helped to drive incremental value. The brand was launched with a £5m support package, which is being repeated in the next couple of months to further drive growth.

Light drinks also represents a growing category in the juice drinks market and new this month will be Welch's Purple Grape Light, which has fewer than half the calories of traditional grape juice. The new variant has been recognised by Heart UK, the leading cholesterol charity for its role as part of a healthy diet.

Development is also being driven in blended juice drinks. In June Rubicon is launching two exotic fruit blends - pomegranate, blueberry & cranberry and pineapple & coconut.

Juice flavours by sales
By value
                                          Value             Share         % chg  
                                           (£m)                 %               y-o-y
TOTAL JUICES             829,333          100               7.6
Orange based              418,671          50.5              6.8
Apple based                 123,758           14.9             9.6
Cranberry based         84,177             10.1             -5.8
Pineapple based         39,543             4.8               23.3
Grapefruit based          32,154             3.9              -12.8
Grape based                 22,969             2.8               3.2
Tropical                          22,235             2.7                4.8
Mango based                11,358             1.4               42.8
Tomato                           10,394             1.3                2.6
Pomegranate                9,929               1.2                  -
Other                               54,145             6.4               19.6

Source: TNS worldpanel 52 w/e january 29, 2006

Read more
Focus on Juices & Smoothies (April 2006)