Healthy choices

Healthy choices

Cook, Julie

Despite widely publicized health concerns, American consumers don’t seem to be flocking to healthier beverages.

American consumers could very well be branded a study in contradictions. Across the country, thousands of fitness clubs pepper the landscape, where seeminsly motivated people spin, lift and TaeBo their hearts out. Still, McDonald’s and Krispy Kreme continue to do a visorous business, while the news is littered with stories about growing epidemics of obesity and diabetes.

In light of such distressing news, one would think that consumers would be seeking healthier food and beverage choices. Indeed, they have moved away from “empty, sugar-laden, carbonated soft drinks,” according to Jeff Damiano, director of marketing, Apple & Eve, Port Washington, N.Y. He claims consumers have become more label-savvy, as they consider the long-term effects of the products they put into their bodies.

Despite Damiano’s optimism, sales of refrigerated juices and drinks in supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart, slipped 0.5 percent in dollars and 0.8 percent in units during the 52-week period ending April 20, 2003, according to Chicago-based Information Resources Inc. Grapefruit cocktail/drink suffered the greatest loss, plummeting 90.8 percent in dollars and 77.5 percent in units, while refrigerated cocktail mixes fell 51.5 percent and 47.7 percent, respectively.

The catchall category of “all other fruit juice” experienced a 73.7 percent surge in dollar sales, while unit sales rose 70.9 percent. Meanwhile, sales of cranberry cocktail/drink rose 32.7 percent in dollars, but just 2.8 percent in units. That comes as no surprise to Damiano, who explains that the cranberry juice category has been enjoying a new breath of life, thanks to the insurgence of 100 percent cranberry juices by companies like Ocean Spray. Apple & Eve followed suit, rolling out 100% White Cranberry Juice Blend late last year. According to Damiano, women are the primary focus of such marketing and R&D efforts. “Women consume a lot of cranberry beverages, whether it be juice cocktails or 100 percent juices, for their own therapeutic, healthy consumption,” he says.

Perennial favorite orange juice turned in an extremely flat performance, growing just 0.2 percent in dollars and 0.3 percent in units. Those figures sound just about right to Mark Serling, director of marketing for Upstate Farms, Buffalo, N.Y. His company’s orange juice sales have been flat as well, although he does report growth in single-serve orange juice, primarily in the vending channel.

Meanwhile, Portland, Maine-based Oakhurst Dairy has been experiencing great response to its 100 percent Florida orange juice, according to Ed Stadolnik, vice president of sales and marketing. He reports that sales of Oakhurst’s calcium-fortified orange juice are increasing dramatically, while not cannibalizing sales of its regular orange juice. As with most dairies, Oakhurst’s juice business is intended to serve as an all-around brand builder. “We’re positioning our brand in the marketplace for people to make multiple Oakhurst purchases when they go into the supermarket,” says Stadolnik. “It’s worked out very, very well.”

Sales of organic juices, meanwhile, have failed to live up to expectations, according to Teresa Marquez, marketing sales executive, Organic Valley, La Farge, Wis. She believes that’s primarily because consumers already feel good about making the choice to drink juice in the first place and thus don’t feel it is necessary to take the next step into organic products.

After a rocky start and numerous product recalls, Marquez reports Organic Valley’s juice sales are slowly growing and the company remains committed to the category. As for future product development, she reveals that a Soy-J may be in the offing and possibly even an orange juice milk, although so far, that seems unlikely because the two products aren’t compatible because of different acids.

Dean Foods Co., Dallas, stands to gain a significant boost in its juice presence with the acquisition of Horizon Organic Holding Corp., the No. 1 organic milk, dairy and juice producer in the United States. “Our acquisition of Horizon Organic evidences our commitment to the growth of healthy, better-for-you products,” says Gregg Engles, Dean’s chairman and chief executive officer. “We are very excited to have the opportunity to join forces with the Horizon Organic management team and continue to build upon their passion and commitment to organic foods.”

Pint-Sized Products

With kids comprising a large percentage of juice consumption, a significant amount of R&D efforts remain dedicated to the junior set. Kraft Foods, for example, recently rolled out two new varieties of its popular Capri Sun product. Capri Sun Sport is positioned as the first sports drink in a pouch designed for kids’ tastes. The all-natural drink is sold in two flavors – Thunder Punch(TM) and Berry Ice(TM) – in a 10-pack box of 6.75-ounce pouches and a 6-pack of 11.25-ounce pouches.

Capri Sun Island Refreshers are designed for a slightly older crowd-teens and young adults. Sold in “fashionable, yet functional aluminum bottle-cans,” Island Refreshers fit easily into cap cup holders and feature reclosable twist caps. The 16.5-ounce beverages are available in Tropical Fruit, Strawberry Kiwi, Orange Dragonfruit and Lemon Tea in convenience, drug and club stores.

Always mindful of the importance of the children’s juice market, Apple & Eve has expanded its kid-friendly offerings, rolling out Sesame Street juice boxes and Power Pouch juices. Sold in Fruit Punch and White Grape Strawberry, Apple & Eve Power Pouch is designed for ‘tweens’ – kids between the ages of seven and 12.

“They’ve outgrown the juice boxes, and they’re not quite old enough for the plastic bottles, so they’ve adopted the pouch as their package of choice,” says Damiano.

Apple & Eve has also focused its efforts on helping concerned parents battle childhood obesity. Damiano reports that the company is diligently working on low-calorie, low-sugar juice products in order to help find a solution to the growing problem. As with many other beverage manufacturers, Apple & Eve has also invested in bringing its products to consumers in non-traditional locations. In 2002, the company made a “concerted effort” bringing single-serve 16-ounce PET bottles of juice to the convenience store trade. Apple & Eve has also focused heavily on vending and club stores, where Damiano reports it has definitely been making headway.

“We are the number one-selling SKU in Costco and Sam’s for aseptic juice boxes,” he says. “We develop special flavors for the clubs that are unique and different, so we have a really healthy business with the club stores.”

Tea Up!

While overall juice sales have been struggling, interest in refrigerated tea continues to grow. Dollar sales increased 3.9 percent this past year, while unit sales rose 1.4 percent. A variety of new products continue to hit shelves, including Arnold Palmer Tee(TM), a blend of iced tea and lemonade produced by Santee, Calif.-based Santee Dairies and sold in a plastic pint. Served as a mixed drink at golf courses and restaurants for years, Santee’s Arnold Palmer Tee(TM) is marketed as the tea-lemonade drink enjoyed and endorsed by the legendary golfer himself, according to Paul Bikowitz, president and chief operating officer.

Apple & Eve, meanwhile, has been developing a line of single-serve iced teas sweetened with real fruit juice. Designed specifically for the convenience store trade, the teas are low-sugar and low-calorie because they don’t contain high fructose corn syrup and other additives commonly found in bottled teas, according to Damiano.

“Consumers want good tasting, refreshing products, but they don’t want empty calories,” he says. “They want something that has some healthy beneficial value coming back to them.”

Copyright Stagnito Publishing Aug 2003

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved