Vegetable juice
Processing techniques and ingredient innovation are transforming the juice category.

CHICAGO — Remember frozen juice concentrate? What about 64-oz cans of Hi-C, or when “pink” grapefruit juice was considered exotic? A lot has changed in the juice beverage business in the past 25 years, much out of necessity. The category needed a makeover to stay competitive and keep consumers drinking juice.

Today, juices are being used in combination with other better-for-you ingredients to improve their nutritional value. Many beverages emphasize ingredient sourcing while others promote the juicing process. In some instances, the juice serves as a flavor or sweetening ingredient to a different base beverage.

DanoneWave, White Plains, N.Y., for example, debuted a first for the fluid milk category about a year ago. Sir Bananas combines banana puree juice with reduced-fat milk. The ultra-pasteurized beverage is 20% bananas and comes in two varieties: Bananamilk and Chocolate Bananamilk. Sir Bananas is sweetened by the banana and a small amount of cane sugar, with natural vanilla rounding the flavor profile.

Sir Bananas bananamilk
Sir Bananas combines banana puree juice with reduced-fat milk.

New York City-based Rise Brewing Co., a manufacturer of nitro cold-brew coffees, is adding juice to its ready-to-drink coffees. Nitro Lemonade Coffee includes lemon juice and 2 grams of organic cane sugar to mellow some of the lemon’s sour profile. The Nitro Blood Orange is coffee, water and blood orange juice. Packaging for both varieties focuses on the fruit component.

Rise Brewing is not the only company combining two unlike beverages to make one interesting drink. With a tagline of “juice up your cold brew,” Upruit, Brooklyn, N.Y., starts with a base of organic cold-brew coffee sweetened with maple syrup and paired with cold-pressed juice. Before canning, the beverage is carbonated.

Upruit is making its debut in Meyer lemonade and tart cherry varieties. Tart cherry includes Fuji apple juice, too, for an approximate 37% juice content. Meyer Lemonade is about 15% lemon juice.

Cold pressed juice
Cold pressed refers to a juicing process.

Cold-pressed innovation

Juice processors are learning how to de-commoditize juice through innovative blends and processing. One of the most noteworthy category disruptors is cold-pressed technology.

Cold pressed refers to a juicing process. The more traditional method of extracting liquid from fruits and vegetables is centrifugal juicing. This is where fast-spinning blades expel the juices, as compared to the slow pulverizer with hydraulic press used in cold-pressed technology.

Most of the bottled juice brands driving sales in the category fall into the category of cold pressed, with many of these juices further undergoing high-pressure processing (H.P.P.) to obtain about a 30-day refrigerated shelf life. The H.P.P. technology uses high pressure and no heat to kill potentially harmful microorganisms to ensure a safe and good-tasting product.

Consumer interest in cold-pressed juice is fueled by research showing this type of juicing preserves the integrity of vitamins, minerals and enzymes. This is because the blades encountered in centrifugal juicing generate heat and circulate air, both of which have a deleterious effect on nutrients. With cold-pressed processing, these elements are negligible.

Evolution Fresh juices
Starbucks plans to introduce organic smoothies in 2018 that combine cold-pressed fruit and vegetable juices with probiotics, coconut milk and other functional ingredients.

Cold-pressed juice trailblazer Evolution Fresh, a business of Starbucks Corp., Seattle, continues to break boundaries with its new product lineup for 2018. The company plans to introduce seven organic smoothies that combine cold-pressed fruit and vegetable juices with probiotics, coconut milk and other functional ingredients.

The new Evolution Fresh Daily Probiotic Smoothies and Complete Smoothies were developed in response to increased consumer interest in gut health and healthy snacking. They enable the brand to expand beyond the super-premium juice segment and into the premium functional beverage category.

“We know a growing number of people are looking for more from their juicgh-pressure processed juice can deliver.”

Adding probiotics to juices is not new, but only in the past few years have consumers realized that not just milk and yogurt may be a carrier of beneficial live and active bacteria. Juice can, too.

So Good So You shots
So Good So You wellness shots combine cold-pressed, raw vegetables, fruits, spices, specialty ingredients such as blue-green algae, raw honey and apple cider vinegar, and probiotics.

So Good So You, Minneapolis, is entering this space with the launch of new refrigerated, certified organic, non-G.M.O. vegan wellness shots that support digestion and immune health. These 1.7-oz shots come in five flavors and serve up 1 billion vegan probiotic colony forming units.

The new shots are formulated to deliver a dose of immune-boosting ingredients via cold-pressed, raw vegetables, fruits, spices and specialty ingredients such as blue-green algae, raw honey and apple cider vinegar. They are made with the H.P.P. technology to kill harmful bacteria and retain important nutrients and freshness, and are available in formulations targeting immune health, digestion, longevity, detox and endurance.

“We created these shots to deliver the powerful benefits of clean, raw ingredients in one potent dose,” said Rita Katona, founder. “We believe in the natural healing powers of specific veggies, fruits and spices and wanted to give our customers an option to experience the nutrition-packed, restorative benefits of these real food ingredients in a simple and convenient delivery system of shots.”

Carol Stream, Ill.-based Here differentiates its cold-pressed juices by promoting the locally-sourced and produced nature of its beverages. All of Here’s products are produced in small batches 25 miles outside of Chicago, its primary market. The juice labels state “cold pressed in the Midwest with local produce.” Varieties include beet, apple and ginger; cucumber, apple, celery, kale and mint; kale, apple, lemon and wheatgrass; orange, zucchini, spinach, kale and lemon; pineapple, celery, apple, turmeric and basil; and tomato, cucumber, apple, red pepper, carrot and mint.

Soupure soups
Soupure drinkables are made using a gentle cooking process to soften cell walls and make the micronutrients more accessible and the plant fiber easier to digest.

Juice innovation is evolving

While Here markets its products as juices, there’s an emerging sector in the space positioning similar products as drinkable cold soups. Los Angeles-based Soupure, for example, offers a namesake line of drinkable soups marketed as “souping is the new juicing.” Compared to juicing, which separates juice from plant fibers and may be high in simple sugars, drinkable soups typically include whole vegetables and fruits.

Marketed as a grab-and-go meal or snack, Soupure drinkables are made using a gentle cooking process to soften cell walls and make the micronutrients more accessible and the plant fiber easier to digest, according to the company. Varieties include carrot, ginger and turmeric; Japanese sweet potato; pumpkin miso; spicy asparagus leek; and tomato basil.

Tsamma watermelon juice
Frey Farms introduced its cold-pressed, unpasteurized Tsamma Watermelon Juice in 2014.

Frey Farms, Keenes, Ill., is embracing the cold-pressed fruit and vegetable trend with investment in a processing facility on its farms in Poseyville, Ind. The company made its initial debut in 2014 with cold-pressed, unpasteurized Tsamma Watermelon Juice for retail distribution in the Midwest. The increased capacity will allow the company to expand distribution and offer product to the regional food service industry.

In the making of the beverage, each watermelon undergoes a proprietary process that uses minimal processing techniques to cold extract the juice and chill it to near freezing within minutes. This helps to maintain flavor while retaining its natural color as well as nutrients. Earlier this year, the company introduced a watermelon juice and coconut water blend to join its signature beverage and will continue to expand its product line. The offering is still cold-pressed but also undergoes low-energy pasteurization to extend shelf life.

Poppilu lemonade
Poppilu all-natural lemonades are marketed for their antioxidant content.

Some juice marketers are differentiating by developing new spins to classic beverages. That is what is found with Chicago-based Poppilu L.L.C., which is introducing a line of namesake all-natural lemonades marketed for their antioxidant content. They carry the tagline: “bold on citrus, not on sugar.” To deliver as promised, each flavor of Poppilu contains 16% to 19% lemon juice and aronia berries. To bring the flavors together, Poppilu is sweetened with a blend of sugar and stevia, yielding a beverage with 60 calories and 14 grams of sugar per 12-oz bottle.

Poppilu comes in three varieties. Original is lemonade with aronia berry, which gives the beverage a pink hue. The other two varieties — blueberry lavender and passionfruit — include additional fruit juices.

Stoneridge Orchard cherry concentrate
Stoneridge Orchards cherry juice concentrate is a liquid twist on the brand’s popular dried Montmorency cherries.

Additional ingredient innovation

Offering varied fruits in juice form is trending. Royal Ridge Fruit, Seattle, a dried fruit manufacturer, entered the juice category with its Stoneridge Orchards brand. The first product in the line is tart cherry juice concentrate, a liquid twist on the brand’s popular dried Montmorency cherries.

The Montmorency tart cherry, grown largely in the United States and Canada, is abundant in anthocyanins, the natural flavonoid compounds that contribute to the ruby-red color and distinctive sour-sweet taste. The fruit has become the source of more than 50 studies supporting varied health and wellness qualities. Its most well-recognized benefit is as an anti-inflammatory agent. It has been shown to assist with general pain relief, reducing muscle soreness after exercise and easing arthritic or gout pain.

Through the presence of melatonin, a human sleep regulating hormone, tart cherries also have gained notoriety as a natural sleep aid. In addition, as a concentrated source of vitamin C, tart cherries serve as a natural immune system regulator.

Each bottle of the tart cherry juice concentrate contains up to 1,000 individual cherries, providing a rich source of the fruit’s natural nutrients. All ingredients in the drink are natural, non-G.M.O. and gluten-free.

Ocean Spray organic juices
Ocean Spray has been busy keeping cranberry relevant to consumers.

Longtime juice category player Ocean Spray, Middleborough, Mass., has been busy keeping cranberry relevant to consumers with three new beverage lines. The Ocean Spray Organic 100% Juice Blends line has no added sugars and comes in cranberry, cranberry apple and cranberry blueberry flavors. There’s also Ocean Spray Pure Cranberry (Unsweetened) 100% Juice. It contains no artificial flavors, preservatives or colors and is non-G.M.O. A one-liter bottle provides the health benefits from the juice of more than 900 cranberries.

Ocean Spray Mocktails, a line of premium non-alcoholic juice drinks inspired by favorite cocktails, comes in three varieties: Cranberry Peach Bellini, Cranberry Sangria and Tropical Citrus Paradise. With 90 calories or less per serving, and no high-fructose corn syrup or preservatives, they are a healthful alternative to their alcohol-containing counterparts.

At Anuga 2017, which took place Oct. 7-11 in Cologne, Germany, exhibitors in the two beverage halls showcased their fair share of juice innovations. An Anuga taste Innovation Show winner was Slovakia-based Divas Drink International, which received accolades for its Herbal Tea Infusion line. The herbal tea and fruit infusions contain no added sugar, preservatives or colorants. There are three different functional formulations with varying effects. Stay Fit (rosehip, plum and hibiscus) is designed to protect and build immunity. Wake Up (matcha, pear and lemongrass) is for a natural energy kick. Keep Calm (rooibos, raspberry and melissa) is said to help comfort the nerves.

The company also showcased a line of functional Hydrate drinks made from melon juices, other fruit juices and with added hyaluronic acid. The three varieties are: cantaloupe with mango, honeydew with pear, and watermelon with raspberry.

Aloe Love iced tea
Aloe Love Iced Tea contains aloe vera juice and gel, along with fruit juice and green tea extract.

From the Modello Group in Greece comes Aloe Love Iced Tea in three flavors: dragon fruit, passion fruit and pomegranate. They contain aloe vera juice and gel, along with fruit juice and green tea extract.

Though not based on fruit juice, rather an extract of a flower, new Rose Diamond drink from Philicon of Bulgaria, deserves recognition for its premium stature. The exquisite drink is made from the oil of Bulgaria-grown roses and may be consumed alone or used as a mixer, possibly with champagne. The unique glass bottle comes in an upscale package, positioning it as a gift.