When you hear the word “juice,” it may conjure nostalgic commercials panning to a tall glass of orange juice, gleaming next to a bowl of cereal and fresh berries, with a voiceover saying something about “part of a complete breakfast.” However, as traditional juices have a high sugar content, the “complete breakfast” of today is looking for lower-sugar options, causing juice to fall out of favor with the health-conscious consumer demographic.

“The overall fruit beverage marketplace has been declining for a number of years,” says Gary Hemphill, managing director of research at New York-based Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC). “Three factors have contributed to category softness are high sugar content, lack of meaningful innovation and comparatively high prices to other refreshment beverages.”

According to BMC’s 2019 report titled “Fruit Beverages in the U.S. Through 2023: Market Essentials,” fruit beverages are the seventh-largest beverage category in the U.S. multiple beverage marketplace. The report states that the category’s market volume stood at 4.6 percent, which is down from the 5.3 percent it occupied in 2013.

However, juice and juice drinks are not the only beverage categories that have been impacted by sugar reduction trends. “Fruit beverages have been a consistent decliner, although not the only segment to do so,” BMC’s report states. “CSDs have also declined in the past decade-plus, while others such as tea, milk and beer turned in negative performances in 2018.”

Wellness-focused data technology company, SPINS, also has observed this decline.

“Seemingly overnight, traditional beverage brands with poor ingredient quality and high sugar have fallen out of favor. We’re living through tremendous shifts in the way people eat and drink. People want quality product ingredients at a fair price, and the changing dynamics are now making their way into the spirits and mixers category,” says Tony Olson, chief executive officer of Chicago-based SPINS.

Although juice manufacturers have witnessed this contraction, brand owners are innovating their portfolios to satisfy consumers' desire for juices that don’t come with such a high sugar content.

Boston-based Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc., the agricultural cooperative owned by more than 700 cranberry farmers, announced the addition of three new unsweetened juices in its Ocean Spray Pure Fruit Juice portfolio, along with redesigned packaging being distributed throughout Walmart stores across the country this month.

The Pure portfolio expansion and its ethos of simple ingredients represents the cooperative's continued focus on health and wellness to align with consumer demand for healthier options, as well as with Ocean Spray's commitment to reshaping the future of the food system into a health and wellness system, it says.

Ocean Spray Pure fruit juices contain no added sugars, no artificial flavors, no preservatives, and are non-GMO. Building off the success of Pure Cranberry at Walmart since 2017, Pure now will be available in Pure Cranberry, Pure Tart Cherry, Pure White Grapefruit and Pure Concord Grape.

“By extending our portfolio of Pure unsweetened beverages at Walmart, we are demonstrating our commitment to deliver a wide variety of juices that have the incredible health benefits of the cranberry and other superfruits,” said Chris O'Connor, vice president of marketing at Ocean Spray, in a statement. “We will continue to develop innovative options that expand awareness of cranberries and exemplify our dedication to health and wellness.”

Ocean Spray Pure Cranberry, Pure Tart Cherry, Pure White Grapefruit, and Pure Concord Grape are currently available online at Walmart.com and in 1,400 Walmart stores. The extensions are rolling out nationally at other retailers this month. The suggested retail price of Pure Tart Cherry is $4.78 for a 32-ounce bottle, while Pure White Grapefruit and Pure Concord Grape are $2.98 for a 32-ounce bottle.

In summer 2019, Juicy Juice, a brand of Harvest Hill Beverage Co., Stamford, Conn., also announced that it was adding three new better-for-you options to its portfolio: Fruitifuls Organic, Juicy Waters and Juicy Juice + Protein.

Additionally, to help spread the goodness, with ideas for snack time, lunchboxes and afterschool sports and other activities, Juicy Juice has partnered with nutritionist Mitzi Dulan, RD, CSSD, to advise on the importance of making better snack and mealtime choices, it says.

“The functional benefits found in Juicy Juice's new innovations are important to help children start the new school year strong and balance all the activities that come with it,” Dulan said in a statement. "With the new beverages, parents can feel good about pairing their kids' lunches and snacks with Juicy Juice to keep them fueled during every back to school moment."

Ilene Bergenfeld, chief marketing officer at Harvest Hill, added: "We're excited to partner with Mitzi to help parents pack the goodness that kids deserve and need in their everyday activities, especially come school time. Our expanded line of better kids' beverages provide solutions that parents and kids love."

Like all Juicy Juice products, these new innovations contain no added sugar, no high-fructose corn syrup and no artificial sweeteners.

Juicy Juice Fruitifuls Organic features 45 percent less sugar than the leading juice and packs a half cup of fruit in each 8-ounce serving, the company says. Available in the original single-serve juice box and a new multi-serve 59-ounce bottle, the flavors are available in Apple, Fruit Punch and Grape.

Juicy Juice + Protein is a shelf-stable whey protein-packed beverage and is filled with 5 grams of protein in each serving. The new juices are available in an eight-pack of 6-ounce pouches in Fruit Punch and Orange.

Juicy Juice Juicy Waters is made with filtered water and a splash of flavor. Juicy Juice Juicy Waters has no sugar and no sweeteners. Available in an eight-pack of 6.75-ounce single-serve boxes, the new waters come in Fruit Punch, Orange, and Strawberry Watermelon varieties.

Beverage manufacturers also are employing alternative sweetener solutions to innovate the juice market.

Chicago-based Tampico Beverages launched its newest juice drink: Tampico ZERO. Tampico ZERO is available in two flavors — Mango Punch and Citrus Punch — joining the Tampico family as an alternative for those looking to limit their sugar intake, the company says. The brand incorporates artificial sweeteners sucralose, acesulfame potassium and neotame to deliver its zero sugar content, while still maintaining a sweet juice profile.

Experts note that the children's beverage market remains vital to the health of the juice category. As such, emerging brand owners are looking to supply families with juice solutions that still keep sugar content intact.

RETHINK Brands, Columbia, Md., launched RETHINK Juice Splash. With only 1 gram of natural sugar and no artificial sweeteners, RETHINK Juice Splash is positioned to be the new benchmark of health in the kid’s aseptic juice category, the company says. RETHINK Juice Splash initially launched nationwide with two flavors — Watermelon and Fruit Punch — and two more — Kiwi Strawberry and Strawberry Lemonade — were added in the second quarter of 2019.

The product line is available in Walmart and Kroger locations across the country, and retail availability continued to grow with seasonal resets achieving more than 8,000 points of distribution by August 2019, it said in the early portion of 2019.

RETHINK Juice Splash serves as a complement to the RETHINK Kid’s Water line, which launched in 2018, and brings the company one step closer to its ultimate company goal of developing a comprehensive product portfolio capable of satisfying both child and mom, in terms of health, function and flavor, it says.

By replacing a single legacy juice box with RETHINK Juice Splash — comprised of 95 percent water, naturally sweetened with 5 percent organic juice concentrate, and enhanced with organic monk fruit — the product can eliminate up to 20 percent of a child’s daily intake of sugar, the company says. The beverage line is USDA Certified Organic, contains no added sugar and has only 5 calories in each serving.

“We have seen low/no sugar, better-for-you options developed in food and snacks for kids, including candy, baby food, chips, bars, frozen meals, Lunchables, smoothies, and even Popsicles, however, it hasn’t happened in the world of beverage,” said Matt Swanson, founder and chief executive officer of Rethink Brands Inc., in a statement. “Put another way, healthy options for a human’s most important daily consumable, beverage, don’t exist for our most important humans — children. That simply makes no sense.”

RETHINK Brands intends to continue its pursuit to improve the healthy beverage options available to children today, it says.


Growth in the market

The juice category’s decline, which is due partly to lack of innovation, contrasts the abundance of innovation in the functional beverage market.

London-based Future Marketing Insights (FMI) reports that, within the global juice/juice drinks market, zero-proof drinks or juice mixers account for approximately 1-1.5 percent of share, with the segment expected to demonstrate moderate growth.

“Ongoing advancements in the zero-proof drinks market with innovative efforts have further enhanced their demand,” states Nandini Roy Choudhury, senior research consultant at FMI. “Manufacturers are concentrating on [research and development] activities to improve the multifunctional profiles of zero-proof drinks, which offer high health benefits, in order to have a meaningful impact on the category.”

Another area offering potential for the juice market has been super-premium juices. Although this sub-segment experienced a rare decline in 2009, super-premium juices have grown sales in nine consecutive years, according to BMC's report. BMC data estimates that super-premium juice volume to have reached 157.4 billion gallons in 2018, up from the 108.6 billion gallons in 2013.

Another segment contributing to this growth has been cold-pressed juices. In early 2019, Fort Pierce, Fla.-based Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Co. launched a line of cold-pressed juices. The cold-pressed juices are available in three varieties: Purify, made from blood orange, grapefruit, dandelion and ginger to help reduce inflammation and improve digestion; Relax, made from orange, pineapple, chamomile and passion flower to help calm the mind and relax the soul; and Resilient, made from blood orange, elderberry, turmeric, black pepper and ginger to help boost the immune system and lower inflammation.

Atlanta-based The Coca-Cola Co. also expanded into the super-premium juice market with its Simply Beverages’ Simply Smoothie line. The new beverage lineup offers an easy and convenient way to consume a healthy snack — nothing to chop, blend or clean up, the company says.

“People’s lives are always moving at a fast pace, and they are looking for snack and beverage options that help them maintain a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle,” said Kelly Marx, Simply Beverages brand director, in a statement. “Simply smoothies allow everyone to enjoy the delicious taste of a smoothie no matter where they are, at any time, without the hassle and mess of blending it themselves.”

Available nationwide, the Simply smoothie line includes three flavors:

Strawberry Banana: The taste of real strawberries and bananas and free of added preservatives, colors or artificial flavors.

Mango Pineapple: Mango and pineapple, blended together with other juices and ingredients for a close to homemade taste.

Orchard Berry: Sweet apples blended with juicy berries and other ingredients. BI


Alcohol-free mixers offer potential to juice market

In the spirit of “Dry January” and New Year’s resolutions, consumers are turning to healthier beverages and alcohol-free mixers for refreshment. However, the rising popularity of premium mixers isn’t just seasonal; it’s part of a growing trend toward “mindful drinking” and demand for beverages with natural – even beneficial – ingredients like citrus-inspired juice and juice drinks.

In fact, cutting back on beverage alcohol has been poshly dubbed “sober curious” as an entire movement. According to Chicago-based Mintel, 45 percent of millennials would forfeit alcohol beverages to improve health, seeking healthier alternatives for relaxing that don’t negatively impact wellness.

“If the ‘sober curious’ trend tells us anything, it’s that consumers are becoming more attentive to what they put into their bodies. They’re also demanding more from what’s deemed ‘sip-worthy,’” said beverage development company, Flavorman, in a statement in its top Flavor Trends for 2020 report.

Flavorman predicts “better-for-you” beverages will take center stage in 2020. Among flavors they predict will pick up steam are citrus, botanicals, exotics, and ginger, trending alongside clean-label composition and functional ingredients, including cannabidiol (CBD).

While mindful drinking is the driver of the movement toward alcohol-free beverages, consumers are demanding replacement beverages that not only appeal to the taste buds, but also are interesting — even beneficial — to health and stress levels.

According to Future Marketing Insights (FMI) target markets for functional beverages are diverse with products tailored toward the zero-proof beverage market, which is seeing a growing focus on children, women, seniors and millennials.

“Millennials, driving numerous trends these days, are actually drinking less. While some companies might view that as a problem, many beverage entrepreneurs see it as an opportunity,” says Nandini Roy Choudhury, senior research consultant at FMI. “Healthy ingredients are surfacing as a more important attribute than cost for customers in the functional zero-proof herbal juice/drink market, evidenced by a decreasing carbonated soft drinks market over the last decade.” BI