Rapid growth calls for teamwork between retail and producers.
Much like the yogurt shelves in the dairy department, the juice and beverage section of the produce department offers an increasingly dizzying assortment of products to choose from. Gone are the relatively simple displays of freshly squeezed orange juice and lemonade. In their place is a rainbow of fruit juices, fruit/vegetable blends, smoothies, protein drinks, and functional beverages promising health benefits. While a shakeout may be inevitable — Del Monte Fresh Produce withdrew from the juice market — it behooves produce executives and buyers to work closely with distributors who can help them assemble the optimal product mix.
Pressed, Pressurized Processing Prevail
Growth in the juice case reflects several trends. Cold-pressed has become synonymous with quality in the eyes of the consumer. Saratoga Juice Bar, a Saratoga, NY, storefront dedicated to the town’s health and wellness tradition, began bottling its premium-priced, cold-pressed fruit/vegetable blends for distribution to retailers in 2015. Bolthouse Farms also entered the category last year with its organic, cold-pressed 1915 brand, joining a shelf crowded with cold-pressed pioneers such as Suja, BluePrint, and others. Cold-pressed typically command a price premium.
Heritage juice brands are quick to point out that cold-pressing is not new or exclusive. Red Jacket Orchards, based in Geneva, NY, “set the standard in cold-press, as we’ve been doing it since 1958,” notes marketing director Kelli Foster. “It’s how we extract juice from a fruit or vegetable.”
“Technically, every juice is cold-pressed,” says Bob Rovzar, chief executive, Perricone Juices, Beaumont, CA. “It’s a bit of a marketing term. Extractors press the fruit or vegetable and chill immediately.”
High pressure processing (HPP) is touted as superior to traditional flash-pasteurization for preserving flavor, color, and nutrition without heat. It allows manufacturers to incorporate a wider variety of fruits and vegetables into beverage products and increases shelf-life compared to freshly squeezed juices.
Good For You And Flavor
Health continues to grow as a trend in the juice category. Bolthouse Farms, for example, is establishing itself as a leader in protein beverages, with three protein products under its 1915 Bolthouse Farms banner and seven Protein Plus SKUs. Carlsbad, CA-based Mamma Chia offers Chia Energy and Chia & Greens lines, touted for its high content of fiber and nutrients from greens.
Watermelon juice is a relative newcomer. “We focus on the health and hydration benefits of watermelon,” explains Hilary Martin Long, head of business development, Tsamma Juice, Keenes, IL. “We see Tsamma watermelon juice as the next coconut water.”
However, Foster advises that health can’t trump taste. “Wellness should be a celebration, not a chore. Red Jacket Orchards gets customers excited about taste.”
Purple beets are a big ingredient for Bolthouse Farms, Mamma Chia, and others. Scott LaPorta, president, Bolthouse Farms, Bakersfield, CA, notes that buyers of the company’s beet product tend to be repeat purchasers.
LoveBeets stands out for its products that are 99 percent beet juice. “Our high beet content is unique,” says Natasha Shapiro, marketing manager, Love Beets, Bala Cynwyd, PA. “Beets have such a potent color that consumers might think they’re getting more beets than they actually are in some products.”
Not surprisingly, best sellers and new products tend to be sweet, although greens continue to grow. Grimmway (Bakersfield, CA) best sellers are Bunched Greens and Bananaberry Crush. The always-popular banana is featured in Bolthouse Farms’ best seller Strawberry Banana. Bolthouse Farms also combines everyday produce with exotic items in its newer Vanilla Chai Tea, Raspberry Blood Orange, Mango Pineapple Colada, and Berries & Green Veggies.
Traditional Juice Companies Rise To The Competitive Challenge
While smaller companies often set trends in the juice category, traditional juice companies are rapidly expanding to meet the competition. “In addition to launching our 1915 line of organic, non-GMO, cold-pressed juices and non-dairy protein beverages, we significantly expanded our super-premium beverage portfolio to more than 30 flavors,” says LaPorta of Bolthouse Farms. “Reflecting the popularity of greens and avocado, one of our most popular flavors is our Green Goodness blend of fruits and greens. Consumers also gravitate toward the 1915 Pineapple blend with broad taste appeal and avocado. We recently introduced six new Bolthouse Farms beverages, three new Protein Plus flavors, and three new cold-pressed juices.”
Bolthouse Farms listens to its consumers when developing new products. “People are looking for more convenient and delicious ways to get more fruits, vegetables and nutritional benefits into their diet at an affordable price. We have beverages that are gluten-free and no added preservatives, artificial flavors, or high fructose corn syrup. Additionally, our 1915 line of cold-pressed juices and protein beverages is made with simple ingredients. They are organic as well as non-GMO,” says LaPorta.
Dominic Engels, president of Los Angeles-based POM Wonderful, says most juice purveyors use blended formulas or technology as a point of differentiation. “POM Wonderful juice products are the oasis of calm in a cluttered world of juice varieties,” he says. “IRI data shows we are, once again, up 20 percent in sales from last year, which also had a significant increase from the prior year. That’s impressive for a juice brand that’s been around for about 15 years.
The brand’s best-selling product is a 48-ounce, 100-percent pomegranate juice. In order to quench consumers’ thirst for renditions of its classic favorite, POM also has three juice blends using mango, coconut water, and pineapple as well as four Super Teas using black, white, green teas.
In 2014, Grimmway Farms launched its True Organic Juice line of USDA organic, 100-percent juice — no sugar added, gluten free, non-GMO. “We are a family-owned farm for almost 50 years now,” says Melissa Pine, vice president, beverage sales, Grimmway Farms. “We include only the most authentic, natural ingredients in our juices, and all have at least one vegetable grown on our CalOrganic farms.” She describes organic juice as a “niche within a niche” and notes that True offers a value alternative for consumers looking for organic.
Some brands promote their long and rich heritage. “We stand behind the integrity and quality of fresh Florida citrus, and we continue to promote our line of 12 citrus juices as being sourced from Florida,” explains Natalie Sexton, director of marketing, Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Company, Fort Pierce, FL. “Everything we make is clean label and minimally processed. Our label is transparent, and we don’t have more than four ingredients in our juices. We continue to look for opportunities to add popular flavors, most recently orange-beet and a fresh tomato juice.”
“We stay relevant by sticking to our basics,” says Perricone Farms’ Rovzar. “Perricone has a long and rich heritage in primarily California citrus, and we produce a premium high-quality product. We squeeze fruit year-round and blend juices to ensure consistency in flavor.” Perricone is a private label supplier for several store brands.
Standing Out From The Rest
With so many products in the juice case, brands jockey for position, looking for ways to catch the eye of shoppers who are not committed to a particular juice. It is unusual for juices to be promoted in the weekly circular, because “circular space is precious space that typically is dedicated to higher volume items,” observes Grimmway’s Pine. “We find that temporary price reductions on the shelf attract shoppers, as does our price point of $2.99 to $3.99 for a 12-ounce bottle and $5.99 to $6.99 for a 28-ounce bottle.”
Mamma Chia guides shoppers through its broad line of Mamma Chia products. “We created a Mamma Chia destination center that is frequently located in the produce section. This rack houses our food products, so it is the perfect complement to our beverages,” says Janie Hoffman, Mamma Chia founder and chief executive. “We also use a variety of POS materials, including neckers, shelf strips, aisle violators, and danglers that either provide the consumer with a discount on product or educate them on the nutritional benefits of our beverages.” Mamma Chia offers branded refrigerators to retailers upon request that carry all three beverage lines.
POM Wonderful works with retailers to promote product in store with multi-buy offers.
LoveBeets utilizes shelf strips, recipe cards, coupons, and POS, but also relies on its merchandising and sales representatives who develop relationships with retailers, help maintain the product display, and offer promotion suggestions. Shapiro says, “it’s great having them as a resource at the ground level.”
Sampling And Social Sell
Juice brands are in agreement regarding the value of demos and sampling. “We have a dedicated team of ‘Chia Leaders’ who regularly demo products to introduce new shoppers to our brand, and existing shoppers to our new products,” notes Hoffman. “These in-store demos also give us the opportunity to educate consumers on the nutritional benefits of chia. We often participate in store events, as well as community events where we engage consumers and direct them to our local retailers.”
Sampling benefits smaller producers who lack large advertising budgets. “Driving trial through promotion, demos, and grassroot events introduces consumers to True Organic Juice products,” says Grimmway’s Pine. “Because we are a family-owned, smaller player, we also need to rely on social media to help get the word out.”
Saratoga Juice Bar also has enjoyed success with sampling and education to build a core group of customers.
Natalie’s relies on its social media program and layers on public relations to help get its name and products in front of media outlets and lifestyle influencers.
Tsamma too uses an integrated approach. “We try to get better at reaching consumers through social media, guest bloggers, and food writers,” says Martin Long. “Tsamma also benefits from vertical integration. Our Frey Farms watermelons have a Tsamma sticker, so shoppers are familiar with the name.”
Working Together To Minimize Shrink And Waste
Solid relationships among juice producers, distributors, and store management and personnel benefit all parties and help ensure customer satisfaction. Because shelf life can vary across a brand, in-store personnel and/or product representatives need to rotate product based on freshness dates. Love Beets relies on various distributors to manage its product in-store, and it works directly with a handful of accounts. As a small newcomer, Saratoga stresses personal engagement. “We cultivate relationships that include meeting with and educating produce staff members on a regular basis,” notes Shawn Wilbur, national account manager, Saratoga Juice Bar.
“Shelf management always is a challenge,” notes Foster of Red Orchard Farms. We do custom production based on orders from distributors. They understand the turnaround needs of a fresh product.”