On the anniversary of the demise of PepsiCo's PJ Smoothies, the embattled smoothies category is showing the first signs of recovery spearheaded by a rejuvenated Innocent, according to retail buyers.

Sales of Innocent smoothies for the 12 weeks to 5 September were 10% higher than in the same period last year [Nielsen]. And Innocent co-founder Jon Wright believes the Department of Health's ruling last month that smoothies can count as two of the RDA of fruit and veg was a reason for the sales growth. 

"Consumers have a much better understanding of the health benefits of smoothies, which was reinforced by the DH's ruling," he said. "People were originally buying smoothies because they tasted great; now they are buying them because of the health benefits. We have been communicating such benefits and it's paying off."

Asda's fruit juice buyer confirmed the category was seeing year-on-year growth. "Innovations keep the market buoyant," he said. "Companies like Innocent are always introducing new flavours such as banana-free smoothies etc. It's all about listening to consumers and giving them what they want."

Sainsbury's fruit juice buyer Sophie Hogg agreed that the category was turning a corner. "We are seeing signs of recovery with both value and volume growth in the market in the latest four weeks. This trend continues to improve. Our expectation is that we will get back to healthy growth in 2010, as per the growth seen in previous years."

Despite the 20% sales slump in the smoothie category since 2008 [Nielsen] and the failure of PJ Smoothies and Nestlé's Boost Juice, Wright claimed retailers were remaining very supportive of the category. "Over the past year a number of the big players entered the market and got burnt, but retailers recognise the importance of the smoothie fixture. It allows shoppers to trade up in the juice aisle."

Innocent pins hopes on kids push to get smoothies growing (3/10/09)