KANSAS CITY — Blended or bottled, juice is red hot.
The trend offers a number of entry points for food and beverage companies. Consumers may order fresh-squeezed juices in restaurants, purchase cold-pressed varieties in supermarkets, and pulse store-bought produce at home – all with an eye to improving health.
“Around half of juice drinkers consume it to increase their servings of fruits or vegetables as well as to improve their vitamin and/or mineral intake, and 24% of people who take vitamins, minerals, or supplements do so to compensate for poor eating habits,” said Jennifer Zegler, a consumer trends analyst with Mintel.
Vegetable processors have recognized juicing as a ripe opportunity to grow consumption of packaged produce. Recent innovation includes juicing carrots from Bolthouse Farms, a business unit of Campbell Soup Co., and Fresh Express juicing greens, which contains a mix of prewashed baby kale and spinach, from Chiquita Brands International.
Foxy Produce in April launched a “Rejuicenate with Foxy” campaign aimed at educating consumers on the health benefits and how-tos of juicing fresh produce. The program includes juicing demonstrations and samplings at select grocery stores across the country. The company markets its romaine hearts and celery products for in-home juicing by providing recipes of several juice blends as well as spreads made using the pulpy byproduct.
“We’re always looking for ways to increase consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, and when you have a consumer who’s going to take 2 lbs of produce every day and put it into a juicer, that makes good business sense to explore this,” Matt Seeley, vice-president, marketing, for Foxy, told Food Business News. “In our industry, we’ve got lunch and dinner covered from a meal standpoint. At lunch, you have wide varieties of side dishes, entrees, salads. In the morning, it’s been tough to get people to consume fresh vegetables. We think this is a fantastic way to get that third meal to include fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Several food service outlets this year have added made-to-order juices to the menu. Jamba Juice introduced whole food blending and juicing in its restaurants. The custom beverages feature such fruits and vegetables as kale, apple, pineapple, carrots, beets, orange, chia seeds and wheat grass. And Red Mango in March announced the addition of fresh-squeezed juices in its frozen yogurt stores.
“Juicing is one of the easiest ways to provide your body with the daily nutrition it needs and now accounts for $5 billion in annual sales,” said Dan Kim, founder of Red Mango. “But today’s consumers have only limited options for fresh juices either at a health store or at a juicing boutique. For several years we have been looking at introducing fresh-squeezed juices into our stores, but we wanted to make sure they met our standards for quality and taste that Red Mango fans have come to expect.”
Cold-pressed juice processors have proven to be a popular investment for food and beverage companies over the past few years. In November, Boulder Brands Investment Group L.L.C., the venture capital arm of the gluten-free, natural foods manufacturer, announced it had taken a minority stake in Suja, a maker of cold-pressed juices.
The Starbucks Coffee Co., Seattle, acquired Evolution Fresh in 2011 and is rapidly expanding the brand through Evolution Fresh retail stores as well as Starbucks’ own network of stores. And in 2012, the Hain Celestial Group, Lake Success, N.Y., acquired BluePrint, a maker of raw, organic cold-pressed fruit and vegetable juices.
“Consumers overwhelmingly want to eat healthier,” Mr. Seeley said. “People say ‘I never thought about this; what a great way to incorporate fruits and vegetables in a different vehicle.’”