Turning up the juice

New flavors, blends, packaging and promotions are brightening up the outlook for the shelf-stable and frozen concentrate juice sets.

Shelf-stable and frozen concentrate juices have been suffering the center store equivalent of a brownout in recent years.

Sales have dimmed as consumers switch to lower calorie—and less expensive—flavored waters and sports drinks as well as “fresher” juice offerings in the produce and dairy cases. However, thanks to a spate of new products, increased pro64oz-nectars-papaya-shadowmotion and stepped up marketing, the shelf-stable and frozen concentrate juice sets are becoming more electrifying.

According to SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago-based market research firm, for the 52-weeks ended Dec. 2, sales of bottled juices were $5.6 billion, a decline of 3.6%, while unit sales were 2.3 billion, a decline of 4.42%. During the same period, frozen concentrate juices had sales of $4.3 million, a decline of 5.6%, while sales tumbled 9.8% to $241 million. The declines are indicative of a longer-term trend, say industry observers.

“Fruit beverages overall, including chilled, shelf stable and frozen concentrate, have had lackluster performance,” says Gary A. Hemphill, managing director, research, at New York-based Beverage Marketing Corp., adding that overall shelf-stable is doing “a little bit better” than chilled or concentrate. “Juices have been lacking a little bit in innovation compared to some of the other categories,” Hemphill says.

Observers say frozen concentrate has been hit hardest. “Overall, we’ve seen fairly consistent double-digit declines in concentrate performance,” says Hemphill. “The majority of consumers want convenience and if they can afford it that is what they opt for. That works against the concentrate side of the business.”

Officials at Old Orchard Brands are working hard to reverse those declines. “We are very excited about the short- and long-term potential for the frozen juice category, and some of the things we are working on now with key partnering retailers is pretty exciting,” says Kevin Miller, vice president, marketing, at the Sparta, Mich.-based company. “We have the ability to diminish some of the category declines and in some regions even turn it around.”

One of those key retail partners is Walmart. Old Orchard worked closely with the Bentonville, Ark.-based discounter to develop the new Harvest Select frozen concentrate line, available in orange, apple, grape and cranberry cocktail flavors. “The packaging is hip and modern, our opening price point is $1.00 and it makes 48-ounces of juice cocktail that can be consumed during all day parts, like lunch and dinner,” Miller says.

Also joining the Old Orchard family is a frozen concentrate tea, available in Southern-Style Sweet and an Arnold Palmer style tea/lemonade blend. “We thought a frozen concentrate tea was a good idea because it is a non-juice item that can expand consumption, and by its virtue of being frozen, when reconstituted it is already cold,” Miller says.

Old Orchard is also a big player in the shelf-stable juice set. To give it an edge, Old Orchard recently reformulated its juice cocktails to be sweetened with stevia. “It is a combination of sugar and stevia, so it is a naturally sweetened product, which we feel gives us a nice differentiation,” Miller says.

To reach children—and their moms—the company launched Old Orchard Kids, a 50% apple juice product with 50% less sugar and carbs and 100% of the daily requirement of vitamin C. “A lot of moms are averse to giving their kids Splenda or other artificial sweeteners,” Miller says. “Old Orchard Kids is naturally sweetened.”

Many well-read Moms also refrain from giving their children juice made with imported apples. That is where Tree Top comes in. An agricultural cooperative owned by Washington State apple growers, the company likes to call itself “the apple co-op in the juice aisle,” says Dan Hagerty, senior vice president, sales and marketing, for Tree Top, based in Selah, Wash. “We are the only major brand that uses 100% U.S. apples all the time.”

Since apple juice is naturally high in sugar, Tree Top developed Tree Top Reduced Sugar apple and grape juices made with coconut water. “There is a desire for reduced sugar in the diet, but also a desire to maintain 100% juice,” Hagerty says. “Coconut water allows us to lower the total amount of sugar in the product by 25% but still maintain 100% juice.”

Shelf-stable fruit smoothie
Tree Top’s newest product is Fruit Full, a shelf-stable smoothie in Strawberry and Mango varieties. Packaged in a 46-ounce PET bottle, it has a $2.99 suggested retail price. Company officials say shelf date is pending. “Fruit Full contains two full servings of fruit,” Hagerty says. “It gives you the mouth feel and texture of a smoothie made by throwing fruit into a blender and blending it yourself. On the perimeter of the store you can get some great fruit smoothies, but trying to get that in center store is quite a trick.”
Hagerty thinks Fruit Full will help stimulate the entire category. “We’re going to have a pretty strong introductory program to try and drive consumers back to the center store,” he says.

Officials at Martinelli’s also believe their apple juice is phenomenal. That is because the juice in the glass apple-shaped bottle is never made from concentrate.

“Not that concentrate is bad, but there is an extra processing step and the fragrance of the product is degraded with the concentrate process,” says John Martinelli, president of S. Martinelli & Co., based in Watsonville, Calif. “When you open our bottle, even though it is pasteurized, you still get the esters and fragrance of fresh apple. The second thing that sets us apart is that we use the Newtown Pippin as our signature apple. It is primarily grown in the Pajaro Valley where we are located. We have a cool, coastal growing environment which allows the apples to hang on the tree longer than normal, plus we contract with our growers for tree-ripened apples.”

Martinelli & Co. has an eight-month bottling period, using just-picked and cold storage apples. “Our process has a lot more cost components that are all oriented around providing the highest quality,” Martinelli says. Even though the juice is priced at a premium he suggests it be merchandised adjacent to the mainstream brands, like Mott’s.

“There are pure maple syrups usually merchandised near the Mrs. Butterworth’s, but not integrated into it. In a perfect world that is how we would like to be merchandised, in the juice aisle, but clearly set aside as a specialty item.”

Many retailers also merchandise a private label offering in conjunction to the name brands.

“Consumers continue to turn to private brands because of their strong value proposition,” says Christine Heffernan, director, program management at Topco Associates, based in Elk Grove Village, Ill. “Shoppers are more cost conscious than they were a year ago, and their search for value is changing the way they approach the shopping experience. As such, they are more open to trade-offs from branded and private-label juice.”

Heffernan says shoppers are looking for more new and exciting flavors in private label. “Exotic flavors such as mango and hibiscus are becoming more popular in items like lemonades and ready-to-drink teas,” she says. “Another trend is that varietal flavors, such as McIntosh and Honeycrisp, are revitalizing private brand juice staples, such as apple juice.”

Observers say vegetable juices are also on the upswing.

“Consumers are looking for healthier juice offerings, such as fruit and vegetable blends, and this trend is helping drive private-brand growth,” Heffernan says.

Revving up the V8
The growth in fruit and vegetable blends is one of the reasons why Campbell recently added Hint of Lime and Hint of Black Pepper to its V8 100% vegetable juice line. “Today we offer eight different varieties of V8 100% vegetable juice that provide two full servings of vegetables in each 8-ounce glass, including two low sodium varieties,” says Erin Miller, senior brand manager—beverages, at Camden, N.J.-based Campbell Soup Co.

“We are seeing pockets of growth driven primarily by flavor excitement,” Miller says. “Consumers are increasingly seeking more unique combinations. This was a key driver behind the introduction of our new V8 flavors.”

V8 also comes in a wide variety of package sizes. “We offer three different single serve sizes for the grocery channel, as well as different configurations of the same products for club, generally in larger pack sizes designed for heavy users,” Miller says.

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