Healthy Ride for Juices

April 25, 2008
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As our increasingly health-conscious nation looks to the juice category for “preventive care,” store brands have a major growth opportunity.


Once understood to be primarily a kids’ category - with a subset of adults who mindlessly downed orange juice or its traditional cousins for breakfast - the juice sector has undergone a radical transformation of late. Yes, kids are still a big part of the category’s focal point, but adults are finding health-based reasons to indulge more often.

“It’s a whole new usage,” stresses Pat Nicolino, vice president of marketing for Carneys Point, N.J.-based Clement Pappas & Co. Inc. “Forty or 50 years ago, the model was you just had a glass of juice because if you were American, that’s what you did. You almost didn’t think about it then. Today, it’s a very intentional, very conscious decision for adults, and they’re choosing what kind of juice and when they drink it.”

Jason Krause, director of marketing for Cliffstar Corp., Dunkirk, N.Y., echoes Nicolino’s observations.

“People are far more conscious of their health,” he says. “They’re taking a lot of their health decisions into their own hands and trying to live a healthier lifestyle. They’re reading labels, and they’re looking for benefits from these products.”


Focus on Superfruits

Look up that aisle - it’s a blueberry ... it’s a pomegranate ... it’s a superfruit!

Although they might not be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, fruits falling under the superfruit banner contain high levels of antioxidants, which help to prevent and repair the damage wreaked on the body by free radicals. For that reason, they’ve become superheros in the juice category.

Indeed, research touting the health benefits of superfruits has resulted in new opportunities to reach adult consumers.

Nicolino says Clement Pappas recently launched a line of private label antioxidant juices in slim 8-ounce cans for a couple of major retailers. They feature blends of juices from fruits naturally rich in antioxidants - in combos such as mango-acai, pomegranate-blueberry, pomegranate-cranberry and blueberry-raspberry. She suggests that retailers market such juices to consumers - particularly women - as their “antioxidant hit of the day.”

Peter Mattson, executive vice president of sales and marketing for A. Lassonde, Rougemont, Québec, Canada, says the health benefits of many of today’s juice offerings often outweigh calorie concerns in consumers’ eyes.

“People want their product to prolong their life or help their overall health and appearance versus being concerned about calories,” he says. “More information [is] being supplied by health professionals and the Internet; more global health information is being shared and communicated.”

Speaking of calories, although a market still exists for lighter and diet juices on the adult side, Krause believes interest has fizzled a bit.

“I think what consumers really are looking for are products that are good for them, whether they be fortified or be organic, or whether they be high in antioxidants,” he says. “I think people who would be really concerned about those calorie contents are now saying, ‘Wow, these products are good for us, and it’s a good way to get the nutrition I need.’”

In another category - the healthful tomato and vegetable juice arena - low-sodium and organic renditions are enjoying strong growth, says Gary Petersen, marketing director, corporate brands for Elwood, Ind.-based Red Gold LLC. Spicy juice versions also are popular.

Red Gold developed and began selling 46-ounce PET low-sodium and organic tomato and vegetable juices, he notes, as well as a 46-ounce spicy vegetable version.

But the juice category does have some less-than-rosy segments. According to Krause, the traditional orange and grapefruit segments have been adversely affected by supply problems during the last few years - and might also be losing sales to newfangled superfruit blends.

Although Krause says it’s “hard to tell” if adult consumers are turning away from traditional juices, the measures many manufacturers are taking to fortify refrigerated orange juice to be heart-healthy or otherwise functionally beneficial suggest such changes are in demand.


Just for Kids

Despite all the activity geared toward adults, the juice category’s main focus is still children.

“Kids don’t want to eat an apple everyday,” Krause says, “but they’ll drink some apple juice.”

With children, juice is still a big part of the healthful eating equation, Nicolino stresses. But although today’s moms continue to want their children to drink juice, they now “stop and think about it.” That means they’re asking for more 100 percent juices, fortified juice products and less of what she terms “belly filler” components.

With its latest kids-focused juice line, Clement Pappas aims to provide retailers with mom-pleasing store brand solutions. The 100 percent and 75 percent juice products are sold in slim-line 8-ounce cans that kids view as “very cool,” Nicolino says, and are fortified with calcium, fiber and vitamins C, B3, B6 and B12.

Nicolino says the 75 percent juice product is a “breakthrough innovation.” Based on California’s school feeding guidelines - the strictest and the most specific in the nation - they contain no added sugar, high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners.

“We worked with what we call our Extreme Flavoring System,” Nicolino says. “They’re all only 100 calories in that 8-ounce can and have these fabulous flavors.”

The company also launched 200-ml organic aseptic drink boxes for smaller children, whom Nicolino refers to as the “mini van back row.”

Frank Lynch, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Minneapolis-based Faribault Foods, says his company’s plant now is QAI certified for organics and is selling both organic 100 percent juice and organic juice blends in a pouch format geared for the 4- to 12-year-old set.

He’s noting a growing interest in healthier kids’ juices, as well as a higher level of awareness around sugar.

“We have some lower-sugar options in both our organic and our blended products,” Lynch says, “and those are doing quite well.”


The Store Brand Niche

Whether targeting the health-conscious adult or the concerned mom - or both - retailers can do much to increase the odds for store brand juice success.

Growth in North America is “unlimited,” Mattson says, when it comes to ethnic programs, organics, healthful formulations, attention to quality, attention to detail, understanding store demographics and more. But most retailers fail to put proper emphasis on labeling and getting the message across.

“Private label 101: Go to Europe and you’ll bring forward your private label program to world standards,” Mattson says, “if you understand the message.”

He notes that A. Lassonde strives to understand the current trends so retailers can get in as the cycle begins, instead of in the middle or the end. Most new items have a three-year cycle, he adds.

Avoid following the national brands in premium, organic and fortified health-focused beverages, Krause advises. Instead, grab the opportunity to do something different than the national brands.

“If you look at some of the [store] brands out there, you’ll see there’s nothing like them out there in the marketplace,” he says. “What we used to call premium, something far beyond the national brands, has now become almost a brand upon itself. And it also has a value to it - by allowing people to get organic or high-antioxidant products under a brand named that’s technically considered an own brand or private label.”

But first retailers need to be sure the “premium” products they’re providing are of the highest quality, Krause says.


“That’s what companies like ours do - check your fruit and all your sources,” he says. “We work directly with our growers so we know the source of supply and we can make sure the product’s coming to us in the best form and being given out to our customers in the best way.”

To get the quality message across to skeptics, particularly for these types of premium, healthful offerings, demo your products in the store, Krause stresses. Place the store brand and national brand products right next to each other, he says, and then let consumers compare.

Premium products often represent a pricey proposition for consumers - even at private label. For that reason, Clement Pappas introduced a smaller-sized bottle - 32 ounces - to make the purchase decision a bit easier on the wallet.

“For adult use, you’ll find in the 32-ounce size they want to have an orange-mango, or they want to have a 100 percent pure pomegranate because it’s loaded with antioxidants,” Nicolino says. “They will choose something that is very, very specific - cherry, for instance, is a new item, so people want to buy a smaller size because the price point is high.”

With not-quite premium but still value-added juices such as vegetable, the private label product must be a close match to the national brand.

“This is where the industry falls down, by trying to produce or procure the cheapest product for acceptance and when the consumer tastes the product once, they don’t come back because the quality isn’t there,” Petersen observes.

The packaging, too, should be national-brand-equivalent to command attention at the shelf, he adds.

Merchandising remains an important tool in boosting private label juice sales. Krause recommends separating organic and premium products from the rest of the items in the juice aisle to set them apart. And don’t forget to put up signage to make them stand out.

If a retailer offers a store-within-a-store for organic and natural items, make sure organic and natural store brands are placed both here and in the “mainstream” juice aisle, Nicolino suggests. Not everyone shops the whole store.

Displays can do much to move store brand kids juices - and other single-serve options. Put your single-serve juices with breakfast bars or other grab-and-go breakfast items, Krause recommends. And offer coupons for kids juice items on the back of your store brand cereal.

And consider pairing kids’ pouches with your own brand of granola bars as a better-for-you snack item, Lynch adds.

One thing’s for sure: Any extra effort retailers make is sure to pave the way for additional growth in the vibrant juice category.

“Branding today for private label is where all the excitement is,” Nicolino maintains. “You’re sitting on a gold mine of trust.”

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