Supermarket own-label smoothies are outdoing market pioneers such as PJ and Innocent. But, by focusing on innovation and new product development, the big names are hitting back

Own label continues to be king of the castle within the juices market, with three of the top five bestsellers occupied by supermarket own-label offerings. Tesco heads the table, followed by Tropicana, Sainsbury, Asda and Ocean Spray.
According to TNS, the own-label sector accounts for 64% in value terms and it grew 5% last year, driven by frequency of purchase and price, compared with a 3% sales increase for its branded rivals. Looking at volume, own label is also ahead with a 74% share of the total juices market.
“Own label is definitely the key driver of the category at present. Brands are growing and still encouraging trade during promotions, just not at the same rate as own label,” says Sainsbury’s juices and smoothies buyer, Michael Luck.
But, according to Gerber Foods, own-label offerings should not rest on their laurels: “Own label is a very important part of the category as the market figures indicate. Growth, though, is likely to level out in the next couple of years in the chilled juice sector,” says Colin Davis, Ocean Spray marketing controller.
Despite own label accounting for the biggest slice of the market, it is largely agreed that it is branded competitors that lead the way when it comes to innovation, and which pour the money in when it comes to research and new product development.
“Own label has encouraged brand owners to be more innovative in terms of new products and flavours, so there will always be room for brands to drive new sector development, such as Welch’s with its range of grape juice products and Ocean Spray with its cranberry products,” says Davis.
In smoothies, own label has risen to the challenge of the big players - such as PJ Smoothies and Innocent - and has introduced a plethora of good value-for-money products in recent times.
To this end, sales of own-label smoothies jumped an amazing 153% in the past year, mainly through penetration rises. In comparison, sales of branded smoothies climbed 7.5%, boosted by consumers buying more often and at increasing prices. Branded accounts for 45% value and 29% volume.
“With regard to smoothies, the major multiples are increasingly offering space to own-label options. However, these all have the same limitations to life that the major brands have and as a result the shelves are often full of reduced-price stock,” says Josephine Carpenter, MD of The Juice Company.
To solve the smoothie market’s wastage problem, The Juice Company last year brought out a four-strong, 100% fresh fruit Smoothie Smile range. It claims a four-month chilled shelf life, achieved through aseptic technology and without preservatives or additives.
Carpenter says research showed smoothies’ current short shelf life cost retailers thousands of pounds in wastage and made distribution to independents difficult.
The only question is, how long will it take own label manufacturers to follow in The Juice Company’s footsteps and come out with their own longer-life smoothies?