Innocent Drinks, the market-leading smoothie maker, has become the latest victim of the credit crunch, suffering a massive drop in sales as cash-stretched consumers forgo the drinks. The company admitted its like-for-like sales had plummeted 21% to £27.3m in the 24 weeks to 7 September. The news came as TNS figures revealed to The Grocer showed the total amount spent on smoothies in the UK dropped 6% to £59m in the 24 weeks to 10 August.

“Innocent and the food market is not immune to the economic climate,” said Giles Brook, Innocent’s commercial director.

However, he said he remained optimistic about the future, claiming health was still firmly on the consumer agenda despite the credit crunch. There were also signs Innocent’s market share was strengthening, he added.

The company has recently diversified into orange juice in a bid to appeal to consumers not prepared to pay smoothie prices. It has also entered the food market, launching vegetable pots earlier this month. Sales of PJ Smoothies have also dropped this year, it has been reported, while Boosted Smoothies collapsed in August just four months after launch.

Tropicana, which launched a new range of smoothies in February, refused to comment on reports sales had fallen, but said its smoothie range had made £12.5m since launch. Smoothies are just one premium product that has been hit by the credit crunch. Mintel research this week showed consumers were finally turning away from premium food as the economy worsened. Some 41% of consumers have switched to cheaper brands and 34% have cut back on premium own-label ranges such as Tesco Finest in the past year, it claimed.

“It is clear shoppers are beginning to trade down when buying food,” said Mintel director of retail research Richard Perks. “During recent years we have seen a noticeable shift toward premium, upmarket food. But in just a few months this trend has already started to reverse.”