Recovery Mode
By Julie Cook Ramirez
Relieved the low-carb craze is all but dead, juice makers prepare for a comeback.
aiting with bated breath as the low-carb craze barely clings to life, juice makers aren’t quite ready to heave a sigh of relief just yet. After all, consumers haven’t seemed much in the mood for juices lately.
In large part, they’ve even rejected the many reduced-carbohydrate products that juice makers rushed to produce when the craze was at its peak. Most major players jumped on the low-carb bandwagon, offering reduced-sugar, reduced-calorie juice alternatives, typically sweetened with Splenda. They included Apple & Eve’s Light & Fruitful, Minute Maid Premium Light and Tropicana Essentials Light ‘n Healthy.
While Ron Schroder, director of marketing for Davenport, Iowa-based Swiss Valley Farms, believes such product innovations “are helping consumers look at juice in a new way,” the fact remains that refrigerated juices and drinks turned in a less-than-stellar performance during the 52-week period ending July 10, 2005. Throughout supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart, dollar sales were up 1 percent, while unit sales rose 0.2 percent, according to Chicago-based Information Resources Inc. (IRI).
REFRIGERATED JUICE AND DRINK SALES*
  $ Sales (In Millions) % Change vs. Year Ago Unit Sales (In Millions) % Change vs. Year Ago
Total Category$3,926.81.0%1,723.60.2%
All Other Fruit Juice75.489.018.472.9
Apple Juice8.0-14.44.3-6.3
Blended Fruit Juice206.9-6.881.0-8.2
Cider46.24.017.21.4
Cocktail Mixes0.2-4.90.07-3.8
Cranberry Cocktail/Drink4.3-16.61.7-19.4
Cranberry Juice/Blend1.28.30.3-8.0
Fruit Drink676.89.8409.46.2
Fruit Nectar15.9-8.06.3-3.8
Grape Juice1.443.40.557.9
Grapefruit Cocktail/Drink1.319,285.60.58,425.3
Grapefruit Juice71.8-16.125.5-25.2
Juice and Drink Smoothies43.640.917.721.2
Lemon/Lime Juice5.511.04.010.8
Lemonade105.21.668.91.3
Orange Juice2,652.5-2.01,055.2-1.8
Pineapple Juice12.213.44.514.9
Vegetable Juice/Cocktail25.036.27.931.2
* Total sales in supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart, for the 52-week period ending July 10, 2005.
SOURCE: Information Resources Inc.
TOP 10 REFRIGERATED TEA BRANDS*
  $ Sales (In Millions) % Change vs. Year Ago Dollar Share Unit Sales (In Millions) % Change vs. Year Ago
Total Category$158.418.1%100.0%96.613.6%
Turkey Hill45.420.228.627.419.1
Private Label19.213.312.114.516.0
Red Diamond16.427.710.49.629.8
Bolthouse11.5805.27.34.1695.7
Milo’s9.720.86.15.223.6
Nestea8.3-7.15.33.9-5.2
Arizona6.8-14.44.33.3-16.5
Clover Farms4.1-19.02.62.5-22.2
Swiss Premium3.83.32.43.3-5.9
Galliker3.2-3.72.02.0-6.8
* Total sales in supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart, for the 52-week period ending July 10, 2005.
SOURCE: Information Resources Inc.
Still, juice makers remain cautiously optimistic, as they seek to lure back those consumers who shunned juices due to the high carbohydrate content. “As the low-carb craze continues to fade, consumers will come back to orange juice because it’s a product that tastes great and has a lot of health benefits,” Schroder says.
They must be careful not to overstate those health benefits, however. Earlier this year, Chicago-based Tropicana Products Inc., a subsidiary of PepsiCo Inc., found itself in hot water over claims that drinking two to three glasses of its Pure Premium Healthy Heart orange juice each day would dramatically affect blood pressure, cholesterol and homocysteine levels, thus reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Following a complaint by the Federal Trade Commission, Tropicana agreed not to make similar health-related claims in the future unless they were backed up by reliable scientific evidence.
“Orange juice contains many nutrients important to a healthy diet, and advertising can be an important source of information about the health benefits of foods, but it is essential that such advertising be truthful,” says Lydia Parnes, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. “In this case, Tropicana’s claims went well beyond its scientific support.”
Despite its problems with the FTC, Tropicana did receive the stamp of approval from Weight Watchers for its Light ‘n Healthy reduced-calorie, reduced-sugar orange juice. The global leader in weight-loss services selected the beverage as the first juice to list its proprietary Points® values directly on the packaging. An 8-ounce glass of Light ‘n Healthy carries a Points value of one on the Weight Watchers TurnAround program, compared to a Points value of two for regular orange juice. According to Susan Learner Barr, director of program development for Weight Watchers International Inc., the idea was to let consumers know that they need not eliminate orange juice from their diet just because they want to lose weight.
Innovation Injection
Chances are you won’t find too many Weight Watchers devotees hanging around the local Dunkin’ Donuts. However, Tropicana isn’t about to limit its focus solely on dieters. Recently, the juice giant announced that it had teamed up with the Canton, Mass.-based doughnut giant to produce Orange Coolatta Slush Drink. “Partnering with Tropicana presents exciting new possibilities for us, as we continue to strive to meet our consumers’ demand for more flavor choices,” says John Gilbert, vice president of marketing for Dunkin’ Donuts.
New flavor choices are also the focus of Syracuse, N.Y.-based Byrne Dairy Inc., which is looking to expand its line beyond the standard orange juice, lemonade, iced tea and fruit punch. According to Annette Jim, director of marketing, the company is considering grape or peach as its next offering.
At Langer Juice Co., meanwhile, it’s all about pomegranate. The City of Industry, Calif.-based company has introduced a full line of pomegranate juices, ranging from regular and diet pomegranate juice to an assortment of blends, including pomegranate and cranberry, and pomegranate and blueberry.
In La Farge, Wis., Organic Valley has been experimenting with a soy-orange juice hybrid. Don’t expect to see the product hitting the shelves anytime soon, however, as the company has yet to do its “homework” with regards to understanding the market for such a product, according to Teresa Marquez, chief marketing executive. Chances are there will be a strong market for such a product, as consumer interest in organics continues to grow, according to Marquez, who reports that her company’s juice sales have risen 35.9 percent year-to-date.
The trend towards organic hasn’t escaped the watchful eyes at Apple & Eve. The Port Washington, N.Y.-based company recently introduced Apple & Eve Organics in four juice blends: Apple, Cranberry Blueberry, Peach Mango and Vintage Concord, as well as Organic Lemonade and Organic Lemonade with Green Tea. They are sold in 48-, 64- and 128-ounce recyclable plastic bottles at a wide variety of supermarkets and coop advantage stores throughout the eastern United States.  
Overall, refrigerated tea sales continue to soar – up 18.1 percent in dollars and 13.6 percent in units, according to IRI. Water sales are also greatly outpacing juices, up 18.3 percent and 10.5 percent, respectively. While a certain percentage of water drinkers prefer straight H2O, much can be gained by giving consumers a little something extra in their water, whether it be fruit flavoring or vitamin enhancements, says Bruce Langer, president of Langer Juice Co.
“For many people, water can get very boring,” he says. “They want a more interesting taste, especially if they are consuming large quantities.”
While he declines to reveal specifics, Langer says his company plans to have a “larger presence in the enhanced water category” in the near future.  Langer has sold California Splash water — with a hint of fruit flavor — for the past 15 years.
Swiss Valley’s Schroder believes milk and juice alike could take a lesson from water’s example of using packaging innovations and branding to make a commodity product desirable. “Water is a great example of how making a product available in single-serve packages that are perceived as cool can really boost a category,” he says, “where the major alternative is free and widely available.”