Catman: the juice on the loose
Author: Liz Wells
The great British public is enjoying something of a complicated relationship with the pure juices and smoothies category at present.
On the one hand we have the move towards more “natural” products featuring healthier ingredients; on the other, we have growing concerns about sugar content following the introduction in April of the soft drinks levy.
Although juices and smoothies that contain no added sugar are exempt from the levy, that distinction has not necessarily registered with shoppers, who now cite general “sugar content” as one of the first things they consider when choosing a soft drink at the fixture.
That fact is reflected in a fall in sales of pure juices, which according to this year’s Britvic Soft Drinks Review were down by 3.7% in the convenience sector to £69.7m during 2017. The decline in symbol and non-affiliated stores was even more pronounced, with sales falling by 5.5% to £46.8m.
Smoothies on the other hand, were buoyant during the year as sales in symbols and other independents grew by 12.3% to £6.9m. The fact this growth rate was even higher in the wider convenience sector (up 18%) and in the total grocery market – where it was the fastest-growing sub-category with a 30% increase – suggests there is even greater potential for independents to grow.
Paul Gurnell, head of sales at smoothie brand Savsé, puts this strong performance down to consumers “shifting towards healthier and premium-priced products”. He says: “Over the last year, new shoppers have come into the category and existing ones have been buying more. While sales of take-home products (predominantly larger bottle sizes intended for sharing) have accelerated significantly over the last 12 months, several retailers have been successfully pushing single-serve bottles into take-home baskets as consumers look to have the grab-and-go pack size available to them in their home for daily use.”
When it comes to fruit juices, says Gurnell, “a large part of the issue has been the general shopper move away from the category due to sugar concerns, plus the commodity price increases, which have pushed prices up in what is a high-volume, price-sensitive category”. He adds: “With the average price across the category rising, we have seen people trading down into own-label and not being prepared to pay premiums in take-home sizes for the cold-pressed pure juices on offer.
“However, this is not to say they would not be prepared to pay more for a cold-pressed juice product – particularly in the convenience channel – which offers genuine taste differentiation, particularly in a drink-now pack size.” Savsé recently introduced two cold-pressed products in the form of Valencia Orange and Jonagold Apple juices in 250ml on-the-go bottles. Further innovation from the brand has included a range of cold-pressed protein smoothies and Protein Rise, which launched last month (May) and is said to be the world’s first cold-pressed breakfast protein smoothie. Savsé is also bringing in £2.49 price-marked packs across its core smoothies range.
James Logan, commercial director at Refresco UK, whose brands include Del Monte, Ocean Spray, Just Juice and Sunpride, points to several key trends impacting on the independent sector. “Out-of-home consumption is a trend that shows no sign of abating,” he says.
“People are prepared to spend more for healthy, delicious juices and smoothies, which provide one of their five-a-day. Consumers are increasingly looking for healthy, refreshing drinks, be they pure juice or reduced-sugar juice drinks. With 25% of the population now teetotal and the younger demographic eschewing alcohol, the demand for new and interesting flavours is driving the development of new products featuring different fruits and seeds as well as healthier fruit and vegetable combinations – so-called super-smoothies and super-juices.”
He, too, points to the impact of healthy eating on the category. “Consumers are willing to drink natural pure juices and smoothies which offer one of their ‘five a day’ and other added benefits. At the other extreme, growing consumer awareness of calorie content means water and other low-calorie drinks are a key choice, particularly for all-day refreshment.”