Apple, grapefruit or orange … these fruit juices might still be the standard three at the breakfast buffet, but that’s where their popularity ends. Today’s health-savvy, label-reading consumer increasingly wants a glass of juice to be more than a refreshing dose of vitamin C.
For the past decade or so, traditional fruit juices have had a bad rap because of their inherent sugar content, said Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation, Innova Market Insights, The Netherlands. Moms who previously filled sippy cups with juice now opt for water. Sports enthusiasts are choosing isotonics and protein drinks. Even vodka found a new mate with Red Bull.
“The whole juice category has been marred by the sugar debate; however, premium brands such as Innocent (Coca-Cola) and Tropicana (PepsiCo) have been able to limit losses by pursuing innovative products, new flavors and coconut water,” said Tim Haig, analyst at the U.K.-based market research firm Canadean.
To get consumers back to the fruit juice category, today’s innovators are adding value through both product and process. In terms of product, there’s more blending of fruits, including exotics and superfruits.
For example, Lawrenceville, N.J.-based iTi Tropicals Inc. has developed a number of juice and coconut water blends. Being largely neutral in flavor and color, coconut water blends well with tropical and non-tropical fruit juices, as well as vegetable juices and even plant extracts.
High in electrolytes, coconut water has become a common replenishing beverage for many sports enthusiasts. When combined with juice, the product has more mainstream appeal, especially since coconut water has a lower inherent sugar content, which helps keep total sugar and calorie content down.
Welch’s, Concord, Mass., best known for its purple grape juices and spreads, has been mixing things up for some time in efforts to keep consumers drinking juice. The company’s most recent fruit juice cocktail blend — Star Fruit Kiwi — is a combination of pear, apple, kiwi and starfruit juices. It joins other exotic blends such as Dragon Fruit Mango and Guava Pineapple.
In efforts to appeal to consumers seeking out clean label beverages, the company is rolling out Welch’s Refreshingly Simple juice beverages that carry the tagline: All of the delicious refreshment you want without the bad stuff.
Described as being a blend of simple, honest ingredients, the five varieties — Concord grape, orange pineapple apple, passion fruit, peach mango and strawberry raspberry — are made with 25% fruit juice, filtered water and sugar. The shelf-stable juice drinks come in 59-oz bottles ($2.99) and 8-oz six-packs ($3.49).
A taste adults may enjoy
For more adult palates, the company is introducing Fruit & Botanical juice drinks. Like the Refreshingly Simple line, these drinks are made with real fruit juice and contain no high-fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors or preservatives. Starting with a base of apple juice, the three varieties are: cucumber watermelon, raspberry Hibiscus and strawberry Blossom.
Botanicals are ingredients derived directly from a plant, usually in the form of a liquid extract or dried leaf or other part of the plant. Most are characterized as possessing a floral aroma, such as chamomile, ginseng, jasmine and lavender. They are a flavorful approach to adding value to fruit juices, as they exert varied health and wellness benefits.
Almost all function as an antioxidant, helping the body fight off damage from free radicals, which like to wreak havoc on the body by causing cells to grow and reproduce abnormally. There are also some botanicals that function as a stimulant, while others provide a calming effect. Some are associated with improving digestion, building immunity and even reducing stress.
Mangajo in the U.K. markets a range of still fruit juice and botanical tea combinations. Now there are two sparkling options: Lemon & Green Tea and Pomegranate & Green Tea. From the Modello Group in Greece comes Aloe Love Iced Tea in passion and pomegranate varieties. They contain aloe vera juice and gel, along with fruit juice and green tea extract. Both product lines are promoted as better-for-you juice blends with botanical benefits.
An interesting spin on botanicals comes from Great Britain’s Ovio Wellness Ltd. The company markets Ovio Infusion, a line of beverages based on olive leaf extract, a source of polyphenols and flavonoids. These are antioxidants recognized for protecting against cardiovascular disease, cancer and other chronic diseases. Beverage varieties include cucumber and juniper, lemon and mint, and strawberry and elderberry.
“There are definitely more vegetables being used in juice blends, vegetables beyond the mellow carrot and tomato,” Ms. Williams said. The latter is actually a fruit but considered a vegetable because of its use in the iconic V8 vegetable juice drink from Campbell Soup Co., Camden, N.J.
“Kale is everywhere, including in juice blends,” she said. “But what’s really making a splash is beet juice. It’s being pressed and blended, as well as served all by itself.”
BIO Rüben Herz is a new juice from Austria’s Voglsam GmbH. This beverage is a unique combination of 80% concentrated beet root juice that is fermented, 10% concentrated Jerusalem artichoke (a source of inulin fiber), 5% passionfruit puree and 5% herbal extract (peppermint, lemon balm, lavender, stinging nettle and black cumin). The drink comes in a 3-liter bag-in-box concept.
According to the company, beets are on their way to becoming the next superfood, as they are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and trace elements. When combined with the Jerusalem artichoke and herbal extract blend, the drink supports a healthy digestive system.
Beets are definitely part of the “red” power juice blends, which are replacing the “green” blends that took off with the kale craze. What’s next?
“There’s been a lot of buzz with ‘brown’ and ‘purple’ blends,” Ms. Williams said.
Brown comes from blends with banana, coconut milk, kiwi and even spinach. Purple is a lot of berries, currants and grapes.
Recent examples come from Froosh, a Swedish company that markets a namesake juice line produced by “squeezing, pressing and mashing lots of top-quality fruit into glass bottles and paper cans,” according to the company. “We would never use concentrates, add sugar or use any preservatives. In fact, we don’t add anything at all — froosh is 100% fruit and nothing else.”
Until now, as the company recently introduced a brown drink called “ugly but loveable,” which blends spinach and coconut milk, with apple, kiwi, banana and guava. There’s also a new purple option made with beets, black currants, grapes, bananas, apples and cherries.
Pressing, packets, pouches and protein
It’s not enough to be “not from concentrate” these days. Consumers are seeking out premium-processed juices, Ms. Williams said.
“This includes high pressure and cold pressing, both of which preserve the nutrients in fruit,” she said. “Blending whole fruits into smoothies preserves fiber content. With all the buzz about bridging the fiber gap, smoothies are a great tool to assist.”
Blending whole fruits not only preserves fiber content, it also allows for a thicker, more viscous and often more satisfying beverage. However, such formulations can be challenging in the packaged, ready-to-drink (R.-T.-D.) sector, as they tend to be highly perishable and have a short shelf life.
To help consumers enjoy a fresh smoothie at home, Rader Farms, a business unit of Inventure Foods Inc., Phoenix, markets Fresh Start Smoothie Blend ready-to-blend smoothie kits. A new organic version recently debuted at Costco Wholesale stores across the Western United States.
Each frozen 48-oz package contains six individual 8-oz pouches of mixed fruits and vegetables (blueberry, strawberry, red raspberry, kale and spinach) that provide an endless array of smoothie recipe combinations. Consumers can mix with juice, milk or coconut water, as well as add protein powder or yogurt.
“Health conscious consumers are looking for fresh, real food ingredients but they also value convenience,” said Dan Hammer, senior vice-president and general manager of the frozen division at Inventure Foods.
Rader Farms first introduced its Fresh Start Smoothie Blends to grocery stores this past spring with a line-up that consists of Sunrise Refresh (blueberry, strawberry, red raspberry, kale and spinach), Morning Vitality (mango, nectarine, sweet potato and carrot) and Daily Power (green apples, pineapples, kale and broccoli). The line immediately was accepted by clean food purists seeking a convenient alternative to pitting, peeling and slicing multiple ingredients when making healthy smoothies at home, Mr. Hammer said. Fresh Start Smoothie Blends solve that issue with ingredients that have been fully prepped, washed and mixed together in one package, so making a nutritious homemade smoothie is now possible in less than a minute.
A solution for food service
To assist food service operators with offering made-to-order smoothies, Knouse Foods, Peach Glen, Pa., has launched Musselman’s Smoothie Mix. Blueberry, strawberry banana and tropical flavors — all of which are enhanced with carrots and kale — come in pre-portioned 4-oz shelf-stable cups. The operator simply shakes the contents with either 4-oz of apple juice or yogurt and serves. There’s no cleaning or cutting, and no blender is required. The portioned cups take the guesswork out of making smoothies, while still allowing for culinary creativity, as operators can include additional ingredients to make signature flavors and boost nutritional value.
One of the most common nutritional boosters is protein. This is true in made-to-order smoothies, as well as R.-T.-D. versions and beverage mixes.
For example, Kura Nutrition, Los Angeles, markets Kura Start Your Smoothie. Sold in individual sachets intended for mixing with juice, milk or even water, with or without fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, the blends differentiate themselves by being based on milk protein powders sourced from grass-fed, free-roaming cows raised in New Zealand. This milk is said to have a bigger nutritional punch than conventional U.S. milk, as it is higher in beta-carotene and conjugated linoleic acid, the fatty acid associated with reducing body fat and increasing lean muscle mass.
Milk and plants, most notably soybean, historically have been the leading sources of protein for R.-T.-D. juice smoothies. Other plant proteins are starting to appear in formulations, as are egg proteins.
About a year ago, Campbell Soup Co., Camden, N.J., expanded its V8 vegetable juice brand to the R.-T.-D. protein smoothie category with V8 Protein Shakes. The drinks blend juice from sweet potatoes and yellow carrots with five different sources of protein: milk protein concentrate, soy protein isolate, pea protein isolate, whole grain brown rice protein concentrate and quinoa flour.
Nestle USA, Glendale, Calif., offers Carnation Breakfast Essentials fruit and yogurt smoothies in shelf-stable pouches. The two varieties — mixed berry and strawberry banana — combine fruit purees and vegetable juice concentrates with cultured milk and whey protein concentrate.
New Sodala Spritzzz from Berg Bauer in Austria is a refrigerated beverage that combines fruit juice with buttermilk and sparking water. The effervescent beverage, which comes in green tea lemonade and strawberry grape varieties, is both nutritious and refreshing, according to the company.
Also from Austria, Toni’s Handels GmbH, a producer of free-range eggs, is now in the beverage business with its new Toni’s Smoothie fruit and whole egg smoothies. Another egg protein-enhanced juice smoothie — Laitilan Proegg Protein Smoothie — comes from Finland’s Munax Oy’s. With no added sugar (the product is slightly sweetened with stevia and fruit), a 500-gram gable-top carton contains the whites of a dozen eggs blended with fruit puree and juice.
Though apple, grapefruit and orange will never go away, the breakfast buffet might need to make room for some new value-added options.