Exotic fruity flavoured variants in convenient pack formats have become one of the must-stock refreshments for retailers. So much so, in fact, that the big juice and yogurt players are now seriously taking an interest in the sector, keen to extend their brands into other categories. Tropicana/Müller and St Ivel are the latest companies jumping on the bandwagon, both aiming to get their products on shelf before the summer. And both will put the full weight of their yogurt expertise behind the products, plus the benefit of the massive marketing muscle the core brands already enjoy. St Ivel claims its Shape low fat bio yogurt smoothies are a first, bringing a real point of difference to the chiller. Marketing controller Alison Arnold says: "By introducing a household name to the sector, we are confident we can take smoothies to a new audience and, in turn, drive significant incremental growth." Made using freshly squeezed fruit juice, three flavours will be launched initially ­ raspberry and cranberry, mango and passion fruit, and orange and banana. The Tropicana/Müller partnership is keeping its cards close to its chest, confirming only that its three new single-serve lines will be dairy based and dual branded and that "a significant amount of money is going behind them". However neither manufacturer has fazed leading firm PJ's, formerly known as Pete & Johnny's, which is steadily expanding its smoothie and supersmoothie range. According to ACNielsen, brands have 62% of the £11.7m smoothie sector while own label has 38%, and PJ's, the tenth fastest growing soft drink brand, has a 50% share of the branded smoothie sector. "What is interesting," says chief executive Harry Cragoe, "is that for many years people were saying there wasn't a smoothie category, that they were going to be here today, gone tomorrow. "But we've been proved right. Smoothies is an exploding category. Everyone is scrambling into the market, but not every entrant will succeed." Attempts by Del Monte to launch chilled smoothies and by GlaxoSmithKline to introduce ambient ones failed, but offerings from such determined rivals as Tropicana, Müller and St Ivel may prove to be a different proposition. PJ's claims it has a strong position in the marketplace with listings nationally in Sainsbury, Safeway, Somerfield and Waitrose. "We are also in 60 Asda stores and are about to go into 500 Tesco," Cragoe adds. PJ's is giving its smoothies a complete makeover this year prior to the new arrivals. New packaging across the range includes Pete & Johnny's being dropped from packs and replaced by PJ which, Cragoe says, simplifies and improves the message to consumers. PJ's has six smoothies, six supersmoothies which are fortified with vitamins and herbal remedies, and is about to launch two organic yogurt smoothies renamed mooothies and a daily detox supersmooothie containing milk thistle and ginger. Pack sizes are also important to PJ's and its smoothies are supplied in 250ml and one litre. The latest in a one litre pack is its C Monster and Get Your Vits functional supersmoothies. With Naked juice as refreshment, smoothie as nourishment, supersmoothie as enrichment, and mooothie as an indulgent treat, Cragoe believes that by positioning these categories against an occasion and promoting them to consumers, it's on to a winner. It aims to become the major smoothies supplier within two years, turning over a £30m-£40m business. Packaging makeovers have also been incorporated into other companies' agendas. Sunjuice, a subsidiary of the Jamaican Producers Group, has revamped its range to give it a fresher, more upmarket look. Sunjuice's Rhian Llewellyn says: "Research suggested we were recognised for supplying the market with the finest products but that our pack designs were outdated. So we have redesigned them. Also, with summer approaching, we decided to introduce a wider product selection." The Juice Company too has redesigned its smoothie packs which can be stored for up to six months in both chilled and ambient conditions, thanks to its Tetra Pak, Tetra Prisma and Tetra Brik cartons which have an aluminium barrier that excludes light and oxygen. Innocent Drinks is capitalising on its innocent, no nonsense image. Marketing manager Jemima Myrddin-Evans says its products are now in 2,000 outlets, including Sainsbury, Waitrose and Safeway. The range includes five smoothies and three thickies, the latest being yogurt, banana and cinnamon. Innocent Drinks has also launched its first seasonal smoothie ­ passion fruit and lychee. Unusual flavours and textures like these are growing fast in the smoothie arena. Own label and branded manufacturer Orchard House says smoothies have grown 134.4% in value over the last year and expects more recipes will come on the market made with herbs, spices and exotic fruits such as paw paws, guavas and kumquats to appeal to younger, more affluent consumers. A key development for the company has been the launch of a 250ml breakfast replacement called the Seriously Breakfast smoothie. It consists of cereal, fruit and yogurt and is specifically aimed at consumers who don't eat breakfast and the growing number of people who deskfast' at work. {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}