Juice in focus at BevNET Live: From V8 to Evolution Fresh, Suja & Bolthouse Farms

Campbell Soup on reinventing V8: 'Your brand has to be almost willing to die to survive, to shed its skin and start again...'

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Juice in focus at BevNET Live, V8, Evolution Fresh, Suja, Bolthouse

Related tags Juice Campbell soup company

Brands, like celebrities and artists, have to stay true to their core essence to retain their integrity, but must also “change and shed personas” from time to time to stay relevant, says Campbell Soup’s beverage VP Kelli McCusker.

Speaking at the BevNET Live conference in Santa Monica on Tuesday, McCusker acknowledged that the V8 brand – which got into veggie drinks well before the likes of Suja and Evolution Fresh made them cool – did not resonate with younger consumers as strongly as some rivals.

To address the challenge, Campbell Soup has had to ditch strategies that had worked for the brand in the past, and have the courage to try something new, said McCusker, who said V8-V-Fusion and V8 red juices were struggling, although V8 Splash and V8 +Energy (which features a “much more modern​” new design) were performing well, along with the new Veggie Blends range.

We realized that we needed to reframe the conversation for today’s consumers

In the past, V8 had adopted a ‘stealth nutrition’ approach when it came to talking about veggies, whereas today, they are taking front and center stage in many beverages as fruit juices are more closely scrutinized for sugar content, and consumers are becoming more adventurous, she said.

“We realized that we needed to reframe the conversation for today’s consumers. Veggies allow you to create great taste without the sugar, and the great thing about V8 is that it comes with a more accessible price point​ [than many other beverage brands utilizing on-trend veggies such as beets, spinach and purple carrots].”

The new slogan for the V8 brand – ‘Veggies for all’ – puts veggies front and center and helped changed perceptions of V8, she said. “Your brand has to be almost willing to die to survive, to shed its skin and start again.”

New v8 juices
V8's new veggie blends are performing well, says Campbell Soup

Bolthouse Farms: The ultra-premium juice market is on fire

Veggies are also front and center at Bolthouse Farms (acquired by Campbell Soup in 2012), which is actively looking for acquisitions that will boost its presence in the store perimeter (prepared produce, deli, dairy), said president Scott La Porta, who is looking for entrepreneurial businesses that can “maintain their culture​” but benefit from leveraging Bolthouse’s platform.

“Today we’re in 11 categories in the perimeter; we want to be in 30.”

However, the company has also proved it can develop its own brands, he said, citing the recent launch of the ultra-premium HPP (high pressure processed) line 1915, which hit stores in the summer and has been “ramping up in terms of ACV [distribution] and velocity​” ever since, he said.

“The ultra-premium market​ is on fire,” ​added La Porta, who said US household penetration in this category (which includes brands such as 1915, Suja and Evolution Fresh) was just 5%, but growing rapidly.

1915 Bolthouse Farms
"The ultra-premium juice market is on fire,"says Bolthouse Farms. which entered this space earlier this year with the 1915 range

Price erosion in the HPP juice category

While brands such as Suja have proved that some people are willing and able to pay $8 or $9 for a bottle of juice, Suja co-founder and CEO Jeff Church noted that his brand had truly exploded when it had introduced the lower-cost Suja Essentials line (price tag: $3.99) in 2014, which accounted for 60% of its sales in 2015 (vs Suja Classic at 30% and Suja Elements at 10%).

He added: “We thought people would trade up a dollar more ​[than premium brands such as Naked and Odwalla at $2.99] but not much more​.”

Suja had also created exclusive products for certain retailers, and worked hard to build partnerships with key customers to move “beyond a buyer/seller relationship​,” said Church, who noted that when Suja started, two competitors were utilizing HPP, whereas today there are 50+.

As for how to stay ahead of the game when scores of new players invade your territory, he said brand building was critical: “Suja is about a lifestyle, not just a juice.”  

new look suja essentials
Suja's Essentials line, which has just undergone a revamp (see above), has a recommended retail price of $3.99 and now accounts for 60% of its sales

Talking to consumers about HPP

High pressure processing (HPP) – whereby foods or beverages are put into a high-pressure chamber that is flooded with cold water and pressurized (hence the term ‘cold-pressured’) in order to kill pathogens without heat - enables companies to produce products that tastes exactly like the stuff you’d make at home, with no preservatives or added flavors, and a shelf-life long enough to secure national distribution.

Austin Allan Tio gazpacho
Austin Allan, founder, Tio Gazpacho: "HPP sounds like something from outer space."

Despite the rapid adoption of HPP in the premium food and beverage market, however, many consumers still don’t understand what it is, and are also confused by the oft-used term ‘cold-pressured’, observed Tio Gazpacho founder Austin Allan, who makes gourmet chilled, ‘drinkable’ soup in bottles treated with HPP.

So should marketers use a different term, and if so, what works the best?

While some industry stakeholders don’t like the phrase, he acknowledged, ‘cold pasteurized’ resonated the best with consumers, who know that pasteurization means “making it safe”,​ and that ‘cold’ means “never heated​”.

High pressure processing (HPP)


Firms looking for HPP facilities in southern California now have more options with the launch of True Fresh​, which has opened a 60,000sq ft facility in Buena Park, CA, which already houses one operational Hiperbaric Model 525 HPP machine, with a second coming online in January.

"Ramping up capacity to this degree will crack the bottleneck on HPP processing – and give food processors and retailers alike the ability to move their products to healthier, all-natural ingredients and processing that preserves them more effectively​," said founder Alan True, who aims to have 20 large-capacity HPP machines in operation across the US by 2025.

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