With the popularity of exotic fruits in juices, such as the Brazilian acai fruit set to be the next big thing, it's the good old orange that retains its place as the consumer's favourite

People may quibble about the statistics surrounding the juices and smoothie market but there's one fact that is hard to get away from: we all still love orange juice.

It may seem hard to believe that, given the choice the UK consumer now has, orange-based juices still account for more than half the market, according to TNS. What's more, the sub-category is still growing, up 6.8% in value to £419m [52 w/e January 29, 2006].

That's not to say companies haven't been trying to encourage consumers to try new flavours, the latest of which is pomegranate. Undeterred by the fact that the juice comes from a fruit that many people wouldn't even recognise, yet alone know how to eat, companies have successfully managed to get people from all walks of life enjoying its juice.

Pomegreat, one of the first pomegranate brands on the market when it launched a few years back, has been developed further to meet what brand owner RJA Foods says is a growing demand for the juice.

The company added a blueberry blend last year and this year moved from the ambient aisles into the chiller cabinets with the launch of Pomegreat 100, its first pomegranate juice blend and chilled offering.
Adam Pritchard, RJA Foods' founder, explains: "We want to own the pomegranate juice category and to do this we have to be in ambient and chilled."

Pomegreat 100 is a 100% juice blend of pomegranates balanced with a small quantity of grape juice. With the current trend for healthy foods and the rise of the pomegranate to superfood status, Pritchard is convinced that a not from concentrate product will bring Pomegreat further success.

"We didn't just want to put our existing products in the chiller," he says. "We wanted to keep our brand integrity by upping the juice content and offering something different."

Rubicon is the latest company to get the pomegranate bug, and next month is adding a pomegranate variant to its exotic juice drinks portfolio. The company claims it will be the first to launch the fruit juice in 288ml single serve cartons, that will further broaden the appeal of the drink.

Yet it is berries that seem to be this year's must-have juice with some of the big boys leading the way in this area.

Tropicana has added four new flavours to its Pure Premium range including its first blueberry blend. Will Ghali, marketing director at brand owner PepsiCo, believes more consumers are interested in fruits with added functional benefits and berries fall into this category.

Indeed, blueberry is the latest flavour variety to join the Ribena Really Light range of drinks. The drink is being targeted primarily at women aged between 18 and 30.

The Berry Company, quite obviously, also believes the future is in berries. The company recently launched a range of blueberry, blackberry and raspberry juices, which are supported by Heart Research UK.

Other flavours that have entered the market this year include a chilled organic prune juice from Grove Fresh, which, it claims, is unlike the current offerings on the market which tend to be "sticky and medicinal".

"We've created a recipe that not only has a great taste but also an excellent consistency," says Andrew Shupick, managing director at Grove Fresh.

He admits that sampling is key to acceptance of the flavour but adds that consumers of organic products are often more adventurous than shoppers of standard products, a factor he says bodes well for the product. He also believes that supermarkets want more innovation and that an added health benefit may have to be offered to get more interesting variants accepted more readily by consumers.

As for the future, while companies are keeping their cards close to their chests, the acai fruit from Brazil is one fruit that retail buyers are pointing to as likely to be the next big thing. The berry is already causing a stir in California, where celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey are claiming that it is one of the most nutritious and powerful foods in the world. It is likely to cause similar excitement over here.

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Focus on Juices & Smoothies (April 2006)