Now less affected by the changing British weather, diets and lifestyle choice are driving sales of juices and smoothies. Lisa Riley reports

It has been an exciting year for companies producing juices and smoothies, with a number of the big players investing in advertising and exploring new packaging formats. The market leaders have also put a lot of effort into promoting the category’s natural health credentials to tap into the nation’s increasing thirst for ‘good for you’ soft drinks.
According to the latest TNS figures, their efforts seem to be paying off. The total juices and smoothies market has grown ahead of packaged groceries at 4.6%, boosted by the growing popularity of smoothies, albeit from a small base, and premium offerings.
Unlike rival weather-dependent categories, the market, which is now worth £779m [TNS 52 w/e January 30, 2005], was not too badly hit by last year’s poor summer.
Lynn Osbourne, grocery insights controller at PepsiCo, the owner of two of the top brands, Tropicana and Copella, says: “The overall category was affected by the less-than-ideal summer weather last year, with growth slower than in previous years. However, this market is much less weather-driven than its nearest competitors and as such did not suffer too much.”
Ambient offerings still account for the majority of the category, with sales worth just less than £443m, an increase of 1.3% compared with last year. The chilled sector is valued at £336m. However, with sales of the latter jumping by nearly 10%, chilled is likely to catch up sooner rather than later.
A number of factors are contributing to the success of the chilled sector, according to Gerber Foods, which claims to be one of Europe’s largest manufacturers of juice and juice drinks.
“The perceived health benefits of chilled products and, very significantly, the major multiple retailers’ three-for-£2 promotions being featured as a permanent offer, are both forces at play,” says Colin Davis, marketing controller for Ocean Spray.
Smoothies continue to grow at a phenomenal rate, and
have without doubt brought new consumers to the chillers, but the sector still has a long way to go before it becomes a feature of the mainstream consumer’s fridge.
“Smoothies are still very much seen as a lifestyle purchase, not a thirst quencher. While sales of still soft drinks are increasing year-on-year, smoothies are still seen as an expensive indulgence and fairly niche - only purchased by a sandal-wearing tree-hugger,” says Josephine Carpenter, MD of The Juice Company, manufacturer of the Smoothie Smile range, which sits under the Big J brand umbrella.
Major multiples’ ongoing three-for-£2 promotional offers have been a main feature in the juices market recently, but this could be about to change. “Heavy discounting has driven a lot of volume in the category and has not harmed brands, but the next big step is to bring back value to the category in
order to help brands and retailers alike,” says PepsiCo’s Osbourne.
To this end, PepsiCo last month announced a £7.7m revamp of Tropicana, the biggest investment in the drinks cabinet for years, according to Osbourne. The push includes new packaging followed by a £4.5m ad campaign starting this month. The packaging, on shelf now, has greater emphasis on the fruit imagery and is being applied to the whole range. The drinks giant poured more than £6m into a TV and sampling programme last year to keep on top of its game.
Elsewhere, Del Monte Beverages launched a new limited-edition winter juice blend last November in an attempt to heat up the category in the colder months. Del Monte Winter Warmer is the first in a rolling programme of special editions under the brand. The next one, due out this summer, is a seasonal variant - a blend of apple, plum, lemon and cinnamon, which can be gently heated to create a mulled wine-style soft drink.
Looking to the future, growth within the category is likely to continue to be driven by our seemingly insatiable desire for healthy options.
Laura Kingsman, trading manager for juices and smoothies at Musgrave Budgens-Londis, sees changing diets as the most significant driver of sales.
“Future growth is likely to be driven by health concerns and the desire for more natural products. The benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption are becoming common knowledge and children are getting the message from an early age now, especially with the revived focus on health and diet in schools, which are increasingly banning fizzy, high-sugar drinks.”