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Healthier, organic juices squeeze into drink segment

BY Barbara White-Sax

NEW YORK —High costs and a high caloric count have spelled trouble for the juice category. At a time when consumers are watching their wallets, as well as their waistlines, juice has not been the beverage of choice for many.

Sales of refrigerated juices and drinks dipped 0.75% to $4.3 billion across food, drug and mass (excluding Walmart) for the 52-week period ended May 6, according to SymphonyIRI Group.

Cost played a part in the sales decline. A recent study by Mintel found that among adults who are drinking less juice drinks compared with a year ago, 65% reported that they are cutting down on consumption to save on grocery bills due to the recession.

Mintel’s study also found that the presence of high-fructose corn syrup continues to tarnish the healthy image of fruit juice drinks. The study found that 21% of consumers who don’t drink fruit juice drinks stay away from those beverages because they contain high-fructose corn syrup. Of juice drinkers, 31% specifically look for products that do not contain high-fructose corn syrup.

Manufacturers have been responding by offering healthier choices in the category. Duane Reade, for example, carries Purity Organic juices and Langer’s juices, which carry the “no high-fructose corn syrup” claim prominently on their labels.

In a flat category, sales of Purity Organic juices have increased 50% over last year. “The gains are due to the combination of our accessible price point and our organic ingredients,” said Purity brand manager Sara Clow. “We’ve brought well-priced organic juice to the mass market.”

Juices with a better-for-you profile are the bright spot in the category. Mintel reported that over the past two years, refrigerated juice-drink brands with functional attributes exhibited impressive gains.

Why consumers don’t buy juice drinks

Source: Mintel International
REASON PERCENTAGE
Contains added sugar 28%
Expensive 21
Contains high-fructose corn syrup 21
Too caloric 18
Doesn’t quench thirst 16
Prefer other drinks 16
Contains artificial flavors 14

“The growth of functional platform in juice drinks offers an opportunity for juice-drink makers to target price-sensitive but health-conscious consumers who may otherwise view the segment as unhealthy,” Mintel’s report said.

Mintel cited such products as acai juice-based drinks (Sambazon), probiotic fruit drinks (GoodBelly), energy boost and hunger delay (Fuze Slenderize) and super-premium with a pro-health position (Bolthouse Farms) as growth areas.

It’s not just specialty brands that are enhancing their products. Minute Maid recently introduced Minute Maid Enhanced, a line of nutritious chilled juices and juice drinks that combine juice with specific nutritional benefits. Additionally, Dr Pepper Snapple Group’s Mott’s Medleys, which provides two fruit and veggie servings in each 8-oz. glass, hit retail shelves this spring.

“Moms are particularly concerned about their kids’ sugar intake, often diluting 100% juice at home before serving,” said Allison Methvin, Mott’s brand marketing director. Mott’s for Tots has 40% less sugar but 100% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C.

More growth in the category likely will come from watered-down juice products positioned as “healthy thirst quenchers” or “high-nutrition natural thirst quenchers” in single-serve bottles to compete with enhanced bottled water, according to Mintel.

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Bloated soda tax caves in

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON Lobbying by the American Beverage Association has squashed state government plans to put the much-debated soda tax into action, according to published reports.

Earlier this year, soda tax legislation was advocated in several areas across the country, as obesity rates skyrocketed over the past decade and state governments saw it as a solution to offset the statistic, as well as its own financial burdens brought on by the recession. Thanks to industry lobbying, however, the idea has faced backlash, causing government officials that supported the tax to back down and look for alternative solutions. States including Mississippi, New Mexico and New York, since have scrapped their soda tax legislations.

One commercial that hit New York airwaves said that Gov. David Paterson’s statewide soda tax would affect families. The commercial proved that the beverage industry is a force to be reckoned with.

According to a study published in Health Affairs, excise taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages would have no noticeable impact on obesity. This idea has been advocated by lobbyists, saying that there are other ways to curb obesity in the United States.

“The effectiveness of a soft drink tax, if anything, would be trivial,” said ABA president and CEO Susan Neely. “A tax doesn’t even qualify as a good start to addressing the rising rates of obesity. We need to move beyond these simplistic ideas and pursue comprehensive, meaningful solutions from all aspects of society if we’re really going to reverse childhood obesity. Our industry is certainly stepping up to do its part.”

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Pamela’s Products now available in single-serve packs

BY Allison Cerra

UKIAH, Calif. A maker of gluten-free foods has launched single-serve packs of its best-selling products.

Pamela’s Products launched its chocolate brownie and baking and pancake mixes, designed for on-the-go customers. The single-serve packs makes a stack of four pancakes, or one microwave brownie in about a minute. Complete with simple, easy-to-follow instructions and made of all natural ingredients the single-serve packs are ideal for busy families, college students, and anyone looking for portion-control.

The single-serve packs will be available in the fall for $1.99 each.

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