Super-premium juice makes its mark as health and wellness trend gathers momentum

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 28th August 2008

Super-premium juice has emerged as a small but dynamic part of the American beverage marketplace, according to a new study from the Beverage Marketing Corporation titled “Superpremium Juice in the U.S.: The Impact of Superfruits and Antioxidants“.

The super-premium sub-segment includes fresh packaged juice, which is 100% (or very close to 100%) fruit juice that is bottled in single-serve containers and shipped fresh rather than reconstituted from concentrate or chemically preserved. These juices are generally more perishable than “regular” juices, although marketers have worked to improve their shelf life. The super-premium group also includes juices that are not fresh packaged but are similarly positioned, carry high prices and are shelved in stores’ produce sections. Exciting new ingredients are often used in such products, often including so-called “superfruits”.

The sub-segment registered phenomenal growth during the period from 2002 to 2007, as volume jumped from 142.7 million litres to 293.4 million litres. Sales as measured in wholesale dollars increased at a stronger rate than volume, reflecting the impact of the premium pricing characteristic of the beverage type. Super-premium juice sales first approached half a billion US dollars in 2005 and then climbed to $587 million the following year. Super-premium juice garnered $75.2 million, or 12.8%, more in 2007 than it had the year before.

Marketers of products within the segment consistently highlight the purportedly beneficial properties of their brands’ ingredients. Terms like “antioxidants” and “omega fatty acids” recur frequently in talk of super-premium juice. For instance, one fruit currently in vogue – açaí – is touted as possessing greater quantities of those sought after substances than another – pomegranate. Both have been dubbed “superfruits”, as have black currants, blueberries, cranberries, goji berries, lingonberries and mangosteen, among others. The small, purple açaí berry from the Amazonian rainforest not only packs antioxidants and omega fatty acids; it also boasts high fiber and vitamin content. Virtually unheard of in the United States prior to the 21st century, açaí quickly attracted several eager competitors.

Developments in the super-premium niche can enter the fruit beverage mainstream and even affect other beverage categories, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation. PepsiCo and Coca-Cola both added pomegranate flavors to their respective mainstream fruit beverage lines, Tropicana and Minute Maid. Major players in beverage alcohol, such as Bacardi and Anheuser-Busch, have also introduced superfruit-fortified offerings, as the beverage industry seeks to cash in on the trend toward health and wellness products.

In Australia, the super-premium juice market is steadily developing, with the range of beverages with “superfruits” and added nutrients noticeably expanding in supermarkets. The success of juice bars such as Boost has been considered one of the reasons for the growth in options of super-premium juice at supermarkets and convenience stores, as many consumers demand juice bar quality product.