The smoothies market is the place to be for innovation, but there are always opportunities for more variants

New entrants, acquisitions, creative merchandising, more flavours, additional kids variants - you name it, it's been happening in the rapidly-expanding smoothies market. For those with an appetite for nonstop change and opportunities for success, this is the place to be.

Amid all this activity, however, there remains one clear market leader: Innocent Drinks. The relative newcomer is already the third biggest-selling chilled fruit juice drink, in the UK and is biting at the heels of Sunny D in the number two spot.

The pace of growth for the company, which sells at least one million smoothies a week across Europe, is not slowing this year either, and it claims it has had its best January yet.

To build on this growth, Innocent has launched a £1m campaign, including TV, posters and sampling and is also offering discounts on its products which, according to co-founder Adam Balon (or chief squeezer as his business card says), has helped to bring new shoppers to the category.

The company also intends to continue to innovate and has just launched a mangoes, coconuts & lemongrass smoothie.

Future plans include a blackberries and blueberries smoothie in a one-litre format and the relaunch of its Supers range this summer as well as expanding the range of guest smoothies throughout the year.

Yet, Innocent is by no means the sole innovator in the market. Daniels Chilled Foods, whose first attempt at launching a smoothie under its New Covent Garden brand, failed to impress and was withdrawn last November, is having another stab at the category.This time though, it is trying a different brand name and trialling in the foodservice market first.

Its Johnsons Real Smoothie, which, the company says, meets the criteria of a smoothie, contains fresh fruit with either orange or apple juice whizzed up in a blender to make a finished drink. The product will officially launch next month, initially into foodservice, although the company may look for retail outlets in the future

Nigel Parrott, group marketing director, believes that many smoothies are not as fresh as they should be but that allowing consumers to see the fruit being prepared this way is a winning formula.

He reckons the product will be a knock to the smoothie market and says the current trials are indicating that people love to see the product being made in front of them.

This is not a new concept, however. In the late 1990s Josephine Carpenter, founder and managing director at The Big J, brought a product called Groover to the market - a two-part 'blend your own' luxurious smoothie for foodservice. Today, The Big J boasts a whole range of healthy soft drinks, including 100% pure fruit smoothies.

Swiss company Hero has also recently launched an innovative concept in the category. Its Fruit2day is a 205ml drink that contains fruit juices and fruit pieces and which contributes two servings of fruit per serving, says the company.

Ambient manufacturers have also got in on the act. Stute Foods recently launched an ambient smoothie, which, it says, will bring smoothies to more people because of its longer shelf life and cheaper price. It claims these two issues are currently turning some consumers off the category.

The market is also set for greater innovation in the future with more companies joining the fray, including some big hitters.

Unilever, for one, is poised to enter the category in the next few months with a healthy drink which is being tipped as one of its biggest developments of the year.

Details are still under wraps at the moment, but you can expect all the other players to have one eye over their shoulders.

Read more
Focus on Juices & Smoothies (April 2006)