Using Superfood Vegetables Is One Way to Strengthen Juice’s Health Profile

Though juice, especially 100% juice, has traditionally been viewed as a healthy beverage, this perception is shifting, in part due to media reports that many juices and smoothies contain more sugar than carbonated soft drinks. The “war on sugar” and negative publicity surrounding high levels of naturally occurring sugar in juices led to a decline in off-trade volume sales of juice, including 100% juice, between 2010 and 2015 in Japan, the UK and other developed markets. At the same time, there is strong interest in consuming more vegetables, especially ones that are marketed as superfoods. Juice producers have the opportunity to regain their healthy image in these markets by adding more vegetable juices to lower the sugar and calorie content and by emphasising the natural functionality of these vegetables. Japan’s Kagome Co Ltd and UK’s Coldpress have successfully used superfood vegetables such as tomatoes, spinach and beetroot to grow their businesses by offering functionality in a “clean label” product. Examining the two companies’ strategies shows how juice companies in developed markets can leverage greater consumer interest in vegetables and use superfood vegetables to strengthen juice’s health profile.

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Greater interest in consuming vegetables

As highlighted in Soft Drinks New Product Development: Innovation in a New Growth Environment, consumers in developed markets have a greater interest in vegetables and know that they should consume more of them. Public campaigns such as Australia’s Go for 2 & 5 (two servings of fruit and five servings of vegetables a day) and the 5 A Day programme in the UK and elsewhere have served to educate consumers about the health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables every day. Vegetables have also risen in prominence in developed markets as celebrity chefs such as London’s Yotam Ottolenghi, Melbourne, Australia’s Ben Shewry, and New York City’s April Bloomfield have glamourised vegetables in their restaurants and cookbooks. The rise of the farm-to-table movement and the flexitarian (semi-vegetarian) diet in many developed markets has led to greater emphasis on vegetables in restaurants and in juice bars as affluent health-conscious consumers seek out beet salads, spiralised vegetables (zucchini “spaghetti”) and green juices made with kale and spinach. Time-pressed shoppers are buying pre-cut vegetables such as celery, carrots and cucumbers as snacks at the supermarket. The strong interest in eating more vegetables provides juice makers with the opportunity to add more vegetables to lower the sugar and calorie content and raise the nutritional profile.

Kagome leverages Japanese demand for vegetable-based functional beverages

Kagome has successfully used a healthy superfood vegetable juice positioning in a country that appreciates salty, savoury flavours to grow into Japan’s number one juice company, with 2015 off-trade value sales of US$875 million. The company’s fast product innovation programme has been able to meet Japanese demand for healthy options, convenience and new flavours – important factors in a country with an ageing population, increased numbers of single- and two-person households, and a great desire for new and limited-edition flavours. Japanese consumers have a strong interest in added-value and functional beverages, or drinks containing scientifically proven ingredients or formulations. Kagome’s Yasai Ichinichi Koreippon (meaning “You can consume all of the vegetables you need a day by drinking one pack”) became the number eight juice brand in Japan in 2015 by offering health-conscious consumers a daily vegetable fix to help them meet the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan’s guidelines of at least 350g of vegetables per day for Japanese adults. To further boost consumption of Yasai Ichinichi Koreippon and enhance its nutritional profile, the company partnered with a local university on a 51-person research study in 2015 to show that drinking the juice before a meal can reduce post-meal blood glucose levels to prevent metabolic syndrome. In 2016, Kagome intensified its “vegetable juice first” initiative by encouraging consumers to drink the vegetable juice before a meal and offering a new concept in how to consume its juice.

The company’s promotion of tomatoes as a superfood has been particularly successful. Off-trade sales of Kagome Tomato Juice grew by 6% in 2015 to reach US$118 million by leveraging the popularity of tomatoes and its high antioxidant lycopene content, especially amongst young females who believe that lycopene is beneficial to the skin. Kagome’s September 2015 launch of SuperVege goes further by emphasising the high-lycopene tomato content along with carrots, Brussels sprouts and red pepper. The company’s tomato juice sales are expected to continue growing in 2016 as the company introduced a tomato juice in February 2016 that is promoted as containing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) to boost levels of good cholesterol.

UK’s Coldpress uses cold-press method and superfood vegetables to upgrade juice

On a much smaller scale, the UK’s Coldpress Ltd has been able to make a name in the UK juice market by offering cold-pressed fruit and vegetable juices that are claimed to retain more taste and nutrients than traditional heat-pasteurised juices. Coldpress moved into the UK mass-market in 2015 and achieved off-trade value sales of US$7.7 million in 2015, after being launched in 2011. The brand uses the high-pressure processing (HPP) method, which does not use heat to kill off the bacteria. While most juice companies have stayed silent on the issue of naturally occurring sugar, Coldpress addresses it directly on its website with a section on sugar. The company acknowledges that fruit contains naturally occurring sugars, but that a 150ml serving of Coldpress contributes to the 5 A Day. Coldpress states that “You need to consume less sugar to get your recommended daily intake of vitamin C from our juices,” by making the claim that Coldpress provides “twice as much nutritional value as pasteurised juices”.

At the same time that Coldpress defends the health benefits of fruit juices, the company expanded into vegetable-fruit juice blends in January 2015 with the launch of its Juicy Roots, Mean Greens and Pumpkin Power varieties. Launching the three vegetable-fruit juice blends boosted Coldpress’ overall brand image because these juices contain less sugar than its fruit-only juices and smoothies and offer the nutritional benefits of superfood vegetables beetroot, spinach and pumpkin. In particular, using beetroot, a trendy vegetable with a high nitrate content that is associated with lowering blood pressure and boosting athletic performance, helps further move Coldpress from basic apple and orange juices to a functional yet “clean label” beverage. Combining the vegetable juices with apple, pear and pineapple juices provides a sweet profile that many Western Europeans enjoy. Initial results of the vegetable-fruit juice blends launch appear to be positive. Coldpress founder Andrew Gibb stated in a February 2016 FoodBev.com article that the three “allotment-rich veggies” have been its most popular product launch to date and that the launch and the appointment of five new distributors in October 2015 contributed to year-on-year growth of 104%.

Juice companies likely to introduce more premium, value-added juice products in developed markets

Consumer concerns about the high sugar content in fruit juices is expected to remain high as government bodies and health organisations continue to focus on sugar intake. The UK’s March 2016 passage of the sugar tax, scheduled to take effect in two years, will not apply to fruit juices and milk-based drinks, but has focused more attention on all beverages containing sugar. Public Health England’s March 2016 edition of the Eatwell Guide specifies that only a 150ml serving of fruit juice (and now smoothies) counts towards the 5 A Day and recommends that everyone aged 11 and older consume less than 30g of sugar a day. The World Health Organization mentioned fruit juices as a source of “free sugars” in its March 2015 guidelines, which recommend adults restrict their daily consumption of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake, or about 50g. Reducing this further to 5%, or 25g, is thought to provide additional health benefits.

The increased focus on sugar will force juice producers in many developed markets to reformulate their products to bring down sugar levels and add more functionality. As a result, juice companies are expected to pursue options such as combining juice with water, using high-intensity natural sweeteners such as stevia and monkfruit, incorporating superfood fruits and vegetables, and adding protein and probiotic cultures. In many developed markets, juice consumption has shifted away from a daily morning beverage to a more occasional drink. Consumers in these markets are drinking less but better quality juice as they buy fewer two-litre jugs of reconstituted 100% orange and apple juices in favour of premium options such as not from concentrate 100% coconut waters and naturally healthy superfruit 100% cold-press juices in 250ml bottles. Many of these consumers are looking for more benefits beyond good taste and vitamins in their juices.

world-100-juice

Legend: NH 100%* = Naturally Healthy, NFC = Not from Concentrate, FF* = Fortified/Functional, NH Superfruit* = Naturally Healthy Superfruit, Organic*

Note: The sum of the subcategories is bigger than total 100% juice because the chart includes data from Euromonitor International’s Soft Drinks database and the Health and Wellness database (marked with an asterisk).

A number of recent product launches show how companies in developed markets are improving the nutritional profile of their juices to address consumer desires for a more premium, healthier juice.

  • More superfoods please. Though NH superfruit juice is the second smallest segment in 100% juice, it is projected to be the fastest grower over the 2015-2020 period. NH superfruit juices are expected to grow at a higher rate than fortified/functional juices because consumers in many developed markets are looking for functional benefits, but in a “clean label” format with no artificial ingredients. In Australia, Bickford’s introduced Chiahh, a range of juice products containing chia seeds, in May 2015. This premium fruit juice in a 300ml PET bottle is aimed at engaging with consumers captivated by superfoods by using chia seeds, which are viewed as a good source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, in its drinks.
  • Fresher and more nutritious. As more specialist coffee shops and other restaurants have joined juice bars in serving freshly prepared smoothies, consumers are looking for fresher options at the supermarket. Using the cold-press HPP method allows juice companies to offer the closest taste experience to freshly made juice and the ability to claim superior nutrition over the traditional heat pasteurisation method. In 2015, juice bar chain Rauch Juice Bar introduced Rauch Juice Bar Cold Pressed, the first appreciable range of cold-pressed juice available in Austria. It includes flavours such as Yoga Relax (water melon, apple, passion fruit) and Happy Hangover (apple, beetroot, lime, basil) and is sold in a 330ml PET bottle format only. At a premium price of just under €9 per litre, it is far more expensive than most 100% juice and even smoothies products.
  • The next coconut water. Coconut water’s strong growth outside of Asia Pacific and Latin America has been driven by its positioning as nature’s sports drink, with its naturally high electrolyte content and its lower calorie and sugar content. Multiple juice companies are seeking the next coconut water with offerings of aloe vera water, birch water and maple water. In May 2016, What a Melon launched What a Melon watermelon water in the UK. The 100% not from concentrate juice features lycopene and amino acid citruline for muscle recovery.
  • More refreshing and lower in sugar. Demand for bottled water continues to rise as it benefits from ongoing migration from sugary carbonates to healthier drinks in many developed markets. By moving into bottled waters with a touch of juice, juice companies can compete against carbonates, RTD tea and sports drinks by offering a “lighter” beverage for all-day hydration. In March 2016, Suja Juice Co, in which The Coca-Cola Co has a minority stake, introduced Suja Pressed Probiotic Waters in the US. This functional bottled water combines water with 2-4% organic juices and contains 10 calories and 1g of sugar or less in a 429ml PET bottle. The water is targeted towards health-conscious consumers looking for a low-calorie, low-sugar beverage with added functionality by incorporating two billion colony-forming units (CFUs) of GanedenBC30 vegan probiotics from Ganeden for claimed immune and digestive benefits.