“The juice category is a very saturated category and it seems like it is only going to continue to get that way, but because there are so many of us in the category, people are having to find ways to differentiate themselves even more so than they were before,” Natalie Sexton, director at Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Co., told FoodNavigator-USA.
One way they are doing this is by introducing more exotic ingredients, including new fruits, vegetables and spices, she said.
“In the beginning, your traditional juices were vegetable-based, fruit-based, now you are seeing juices that have more of a spice base. So, they are moving toward the turmerics and the gingers, and even to an extent charcoal,” she said.
In addition, less familiar fruits and vegetables are being used to help boost the nutritional profile of juices and to create a new marketing message around enhanced nutrition, Sexton said. This also helps counter consumer concerns about too much sugar in juice because it provides a platform to talk about the vitamins, minerals and nutrients that come in high quantities in regular and super fruits and vegetables, she added.
However, she cautioned, new ingredients can also intimidate consumers, which is why Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Co. likes to pair them with familiar ingredients, such as in its Carrot Ginger juice, which combines well-known apples and carrots, with ingredients that are potentially new to consumers, such as turmeric.
“Consumers want exotic, so from the producer standpoint we have to give them exotic, but in a realistic manner. We can’t combine things that are too outlandish and taste terrible together,” she said.
Juice shots are showing up on store shelves
Another trend that is setting some manufacturers apart from the pack is the emergence of juice shots at the retail level, Sexton said.
She explained that juice shots first appeared at juice stores as unique blends and concentrations with different health benefits, but now they are starting to show up at retail on a larger scale – starting first in “advanced cities.”
The shots are appearing in various places in stores, including on shelf next to full sized grab-and-go juices, in the produce aisle and even sometimes in the pharmacy as part of a refrigerated wellness display that also might include refrigerated nutrition bars or probiotic shots, Sexton said.
With a price tag of $4 to $6 for a 1- to 6-ounce bottle, shots likely are not going to take off with the mainstream shopper any time soon, but Sexton says they will resonate with health and wellness oriented consumers who already pay premium prices for fresh pressed juices or kombucha, for example.
Counter sugar fears with natural benefits
The juice industry also will continue to battle consumer fears about excessive sugar, Sexton predicts of 2018. But she says one good way to address these concerns is to play up the natural angle and talk about the nutrition that comes from juice.
Some companies also are using more vegetables, which have a lower sugar content than some fruits, Sexton said.
In this respect, she predicts that consumers also will want more single-ingredient vegetable juices, such as a plain carrot juice, and juices with fewer but high quality ingredients.
“I think vegetable juices are still consistent and will continue to be consistent in terms of what consumers decide to buy, but I think it may become more of a focus on minimalistic juices – so more pure, like straight carrot juice or maybe straight kale juice, as opposed to these blends that have a wide range of ingredients,” she explained.
On this note, she expects more juices to highlight one to three ingredients versus a laundry list of small amounts of juices blended together.
Finally, Sexton predicts that bright colors will play a pivotal role in the ongoing sale of juices in the new year.
“Beautiful, bright colors are something that are always attractive to the consumer, as opposed to darker more earthy tones,” she said.
But, she adds, natural will still trump color. So, companies should avoid using artificial colors to make their juices appear brighter because consumers increasingly are avoiding products with artificial ingredients, she explained.