Exploring the diverse world of blended fruit and vegetable juices.

Consumers have a love-hate relationship with 100% juice. On the one hand they appreciate the convenient format that helps them increase their fruit and vegetable consumption. But they also are challenged with the calories, inherent sugar content and often the price point of 100% juice.

This is reflected in the report “Juice and juice drinks — U.S.,” from the Chicago-based market research firm Mintel International, which showed total U.S. retail sales of 100% juice have declined by 10% between the period of 2008 to 2013. Juice drinks, on the other hand, have grown 8% during the same period.

“While the category benefits from a health halo, assisting consumers with their intake of healthful fruit and vegetables, the perception of high price and high calories and sugar, along with the proliferation of competing beverages, have stunted growth in the recent past,” said Beth Bloom, food and drink analyst at Mintel. “Further, more and more, health professionals 
are pointing to the downsides of juice consumption and encouraging moderation, or even elimination, especially among children.”

The juice drinks segment is what’s keeping the category afloat, according to the report. Segment growth is largely due to the expansion of reduced-calorie and reduced-sugar offerings, in addition to lower price points available among products. And while some 84% of households use 100% juice and only 65% use juice drinks, the volume of juice drinks consumed by households with young consumers is significant.

“Young consumers are more likely than average to participate in the category and appear as targets for purchase,” Ms. Bloom said. “While use of 100% juice remains fairly steady with age, consumption of juice drinks drops.”

Hence, there is opportunity to innovate in the juice drink segment in order to address the dietary restrictions of some older consumers.

Mintel forecasts sales losses in the combined category to slow in the near future as the market expands healthful, calorie- and sugar-conscious options and explores flavor and functional innovation that meets the needs of key audiences, such as young adults, Hispanic consumers, older consumers and households with children. Future growth will depend on the category’s ability to present products as convenient and affordable alternatives to competing beverage options.

With children such an important demographic for juice marketers, many companies are working to improve the nutritional profile of their offerings. This month, Bolthouse Farms, Bakersfield, Calif., a business unit of the Campbell Soup Co., is launching Bolthouse Farms Kids, which includes two fruit juice smoothies: Strawberry Meets Banana and Peach Meets Mango.

Earlier this year, Sparta, Mich.-based Old Orchard Brands added berry, fruit punch and grape varieties to the original apple offering of Old Orchard for Kids. The juice drinks contain 50% less sugar than traditional 100% juice varieties. The reduction is achieved by diluting 100% juice with filtered water and enhancing with natural flavors. The Kids line of products contains no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, as well as no added sugars. Each 8-oz glass offers 100% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C in addition to providing a boost of calcium and iron.

“Flavors like grape, fruit punch and berry are certainly kid-friendly, but we really developed the Old Orchard for Kids line with parents in mind,” said Mark Saur, founder and chief executive officer. “Parents want to feel good about what they are serving to their children, and in this case we have a fruit juice that we know kids will love but that mom and dad will also feel good about based on its positive nutritional profile. And, to top it off, we offer it at a price point that sets us apart from the competition.”

The shelf-stable 64-oz plastic bottle retails for $2.49.

Kids Healthy Foods L.L.C., Beaverton, Ore., has introduced Mickies Slices Veggie & Fruit Drinks. The triangular 150-ml packs of shelf-stable 100% juice deliver one serving of fruits and vegetables. Though both the fruits and vegetables are graphically depicted on the packaging, only the fruits are called out in the flavor name as to not deter young readers. The varieties include apple pear, fruit punch, pomegranate grape and tangerine lime.

In the U.K., Natural Immune Products Ltd., markets I Mune Nuture, a natural fruity water beverage (50% juice and 50% water) designed to strengthen the immune systems of children ages 2 to 5. It is enhanced with vitamins B3, B5, B9, B12, C and D along with calcium, zinc and Wellmune beta glucans from Biothera, Eagan, Minn. The latter is a proprietary baker’s yeast beta glucan fiber shown to mobilize innate immune cells that are part of the body’s natural defenses without over stimulating the immune system. The juice drink comes in two 100% flavors: orange/pineapple and strawberry/cherry.

“We believe children should explore their environment, which often is filled with germs and other environmental hazards,” said Derek Sanders, founder of Natural Immune Products. “My wife and I created I Mune Nurture to provide children with a 100% natural drink that would strengthen their immunity and keep their bodies healthy. In our search for the right ingredients, we decided to incorporate Wellmune because it is scientifically proven to naturally and effectively support healthy immunity.”

Adding flavor inspiration

When it comes to flavors, children often prefer familiar fruity tastes. But with adults, exotic and tropical flavors are driving innovation, especially with juices targeted to millennials, according to Mintel. Blending familiar juices with the not-so familiar juices allows for such flavor profiles.

For example, Welch Foods Inc., Concord, Mass., offers refrigerated passion fruit juice cocktail blends in three varieties: berry pineapple passion fruit, passion fruit and passion fruit cherry. Most recently the company introduced Welch’s dragon fruit mango flavored juice cocktail blend, which contains a total of 20% juice from a combination of dragon fruit, guava, mango and pear.

MonaVie Health Juices from MonaVie, Salt Lake City, feature a blend of the Brazilian acai berry and 18 other fruits from around the world. Each of the additional fruits was selected for its contribution of a variety of phytonutrients and antioxidants. Together, the synergistic effect of the fruits reaches beyond what any single fruit may accomplish, according to the company.

There are six varieties, including MonaVie Active, which is described as a fusion of 19 fruits. They are: acai, acerola, apple, aronia, banana, bilberry, black currant, camu camu, cranberry, cupuacu, blueberry, grape, jabuticaba, kiwi, maqui, pear, pomegranate, prune and wolfberry.

POM Wonderful L.L.C., Los Angeles, now offers Hawaiian-inspired Pom Hula, which combines three juices (50% pomegranate, 30% pineapple and 20% apple) along with added natural flavors. The company’s two other fruit juice blends are POM mango, (40% pomegranate, 40% mango and 20% pear) and POM coconut (60% coconut water, 30% pomegranate and 10% pineapple). The latter is sweetened with stevia and contains 140 calories per 12-oz serving, as compared to the other two blends that are 100% juice and contain 210 calories.

Addressing calorie concerns

Reducing calories and sugar content may come from blending vegetable juices with fruit juices, with 17% of U.S. consumers believing vegetable juices contain fewer calories, according to Mintel.

Love Beets, Philadelphia, offers namesake juices in two varieties: beet juice, and cherry and berry beet juice. Beet juice is full of antioxidants and other nutrients associated with boosting stamina and endurance, according to the company. Made using a unique filtration system that yields a smooth mouthfeel, the juices contain no artificial ingredients or added sugars.

Earlier this year, R.W. Knudsen Family, Chico, Calif., introduced Nature’s Peak juice blends. An 8-oz glass of the half fruit juice and half vegetable juice blends provides a half-cup serving of fruits and a half-cup serving of vegetables.

There are three varieties. With a berry red hue, Berry Veggie Blend is based on apple, blackberry, purple carrot, raspberry, red beet, strawberry and sweet potato. Orchard Veggie possesses a green color through the combination of spirulina with apple, carrot, kiwi, pear, sweet potato and spinach. Tropical Veggie Blend sports an orange shade that results from the blending of banana, carrot, mango, pineapple and sweet potato.

SPI West Port Inc., South San Francisco, Calif., markets a line of drinks containing pieces of aloe vera, providing a unique texture experience to the consumer. The original variety — ALO Exposed — is made with aloe vera pulp, which is an ingredient loaded with vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids. Most recently the company introduced ALO Light, which is a lower sugar formulation based on water, aloe vera juice and stevia. There’s an original flavor that contains a touch of honey, and is aptly named ALO Light Exposed. ALO Light Refresh includes cantaloupe and cucumber juices while ALO Light Bright contains orange and passion fruit juices.

An extreme juice concept comes from Chimp Food, Hollywood, Fla. The namesake patent-pending vegan beverage carries the tagline: “Eat like you should. Eat like a chimp.” Each 16-oz bottle contains 25 different vegetables, fruits, berries, nuts and seeds. The ingredients are raw and uncooked. They are unpeeled and unskinned to retain nutrients and pureed and blended so that nutrients are more readily absorbed.

And likely the most unusual new product comes from Van Holten’s, Waterloo, Wis. New Pickleback is pickle juice, the liquid that remains in a jar of finished pickles. Technically it’s not juice. It is brine.

“We are using real honest pickle brine,” said Steve Byrnes, president. “This is the same stuff we’ve been making for over 100 years using our original recipe. We’re just packaging it in a new way to fit the needs of our customers.”

Pickleback is intended for use as a shot chaser or cocktail mixer, but of course, may be consumed by itself or on the rocks.

With the exception of pickle juice, fruit and vegetable juice products are poised to speak to the health and wellness trend. By blending juices and creative use of ingredients, juice and juice drinks have the ability to meet consumers’ desires for flavor variety and convenience.