High sugar levels in fizzy drinks have received bad press, while healthy juice and smoothie alternatives are cashing in

The nation’s obsession with health has benefited the juices and smoothies market in recent years. More and more Brits turn to these drinks instead of carbonated soft drinks that, particularly those targeted at children, have suffered from a media backlash because of their high sugar levels.
According to The Grocer’s Top Products Survey, sales of chilled fruit juices were up 9.5% last year compared with a drop of 2.3% in sales of its fizzy rivals [ACNielsen 52 w/e Oct 2, 2004] as consumers increasingly requested genuinely healthy drinks. With their natural health credentials, juices and smoothies provide an attractive alternative to their sugar-filled competitors. “Increasing health awareness has played a big role in the success of the category,” says Laura Kingsman, trading manager for juices and smoothies at Musgrave Budgens-Londis. “Parents are increasingly concerned about health issues. They’re more conscious of ingredients and are looking for more natural products to feed their families.”
“Undoubtedly, juice does have a healthier image than carbonates and the growth in consumption of juice meets this consumer need,” says Colin Davis, marketing controller for Ocean Spray. “As interest in health continues to grow, so does the
demand for reduced-sugar chilled juices and juice drinks. More and more consumers are assiduously checking ingredients lists and are heading for the chiller cabinet, contributing to the growth of this sector.”
Growth in the juices and smoothies market has been boosted by the government’s 5-a-day message, with the logo now featured on a number of products.
“The 5-a-day message has become a key one for any product to carry. Schools are now seeking products with the full remit of health benefits and the 5-a-day logo is something they look for,” says Josephine Carpenter, MD of The Juice Company, whose products all carry the message.
A big selling point for smoothies continues to be that they contain two of the government’s recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day on average, compared with a juice which only contains one. Because smoothies use the whole fruit rather than just the juice, they are in general conceived to be full of goodness and healthier than a standard fruit juice.
More and more functional drinks are hitting the market and, according to Davis, development within this area is set to grow. “Products that address a specific health requirement are the most popular. The most successful functional drinks are those that deliver on taste, offer innate benefits and are supported with scientific research. The success of cranberry juice, which is a well-known preventative measure for those prone to cystitis, bears testament to that.”
Pom Wonderful is launching a range of juice that literally targets consumers’ hearts, in the hope that pomegranate will become the next cranberry juice in the UK. Launched this month, the Californian juice will initially be available in three chilled varieties - 100% pomegranate, pomegranate with cherry, and pomegranate with blueberry. It is going head to head with Pomegreat, which has, it says, already achieved success with its pomegranate drinks in all the multiples except Tesco.
Pomegranate juice is widely claimed to be an antioxidant superpower, containing higher levels than red wine, blueberry juice, green tea and cranberry juice. Antioxidants help protect against heart diseases as well as premature ageing and some cancers.