The founder of PJ's Smoothies, the pioneering smoothie brand in the UK, has hit out at PepsiCo's treatment of the brand after its repositioning as a rival to cheap own label.
Harry Cragoe, who created the UK smoothie category in 1994 with the launch of Pete and Johnny Smoothies, said PepsiCo had taken away the brand's individuality.
"It alienated the brand and took it away from its smoothie heartland," said Cragoe. "PJ's is now a me-too to own label and it's a really sad day for the brand and the category I created. It shows what can happen when you take a very individual brand and put it into a large company mentality."
Cragoe sold PJ's to PepsiCo in February 2005 for an undisclosed sum when it was worth £14m at retail and when brand leader Innocent had a £30m value. PJ's is now worth £24m while Innocent has grown to £130m. "When PepsiCo bought the business it was potentially a very exciting time for it," said Cragoe. "It had the distribution and the marketing muscle to widen PJ's audience, but it failed."
PepsiCo slashed the price of PJ's last month and delisted six flavours to pitch it against own label. Its flagship Tropicana brand is instead moving into smoothies to rival Innocent.
"There is a significant opportunity for a smoothie brand that is accessibly priced," said Tropicana senior brand manager Adrian Baty. "There are several brands competing in the super-premium sector but there is not a mass-market brand to make smoothies accessible to all. Early indications are this move has been highly successful for PJ's."