While Asda has dropped Sunny D from its listings, brand owner Gerber is not so quick to give up, with moves to reinvigorate a product that remains the number two chilled fruit juice

Asda's announcement last month that it had delisted ailing soft drink Sunny D was yet another blow to the brand that has seen sales hit hard since its late 1990s heyday.

Asda dropped the brand because it says sales fell by 50% in its stores in the past two years and that consumers are turning away from the drink and buying what they perceived were healthier options, such as not from concentrate juices.

"Our analysis and customer feedback shows Sunny D is in long-term decline, with half the number of consumers buying it than was the case two years ago," a spokesman for Asda said last month.

However, according to Gerber Foods Soft Drinks, which bought the UK distribution rights for Sunny D in February 2005, the drink continues to perform well, especially the 200ml single-serve packs, where sales have risen by 40%. The brand also still has listings in Tesco, as well as other major retailers.

Commercial director Andy Leslie says that, despite being dogged by negative consumer press over the past few years, the brand has successfully managed to reinvent itself with no added sugar variants and an overhaul of its flavours. "It's not as much doom and gloom as people think," he says. "There has been a lot of work on the brand especially with the parents' advisory group we have set up, which will hopefully help us to reinvigorate the brand."

Indeed, despite the negative press, the drink remains the number two chilled fruit drink in the UK with impressive sales of more than £30m a year [ACNielsen 52 w/e October 1, 2005]. To put the brand in perspective, it is
more than twice the size of PJ Smoothies.

Leslie adds that new products are planned for Sunny D later in the year and that the brand may even be given a makeover to attract customers back to the brand. If it is going down, it will do so fighting.

"Sunny D is on the cusp of being reinvented," he says.

Launched in 1998, Sunny D was one of the fastest-growing new products of the decade. However, negative media coverage alienated many consumers and sales have taken a dive.

Robert Neal, who heads up fresh foods for Spar UK, says that within his business Sunny D still justifies its shelf space.

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Focus on Juices & Smoothies (April 2006)