Strategic advice for the food and beverage industry

Thanks to sugar concerns, plant waters will rival and one day may outsell juice and smoothies

Innocent pic“The smartest thing a smoothie company could do might be to sell coconut water,” is what New Nutrition Business has been telling anyone willing to listen (see April 2015 NNB).

The reason is simple: in many countries sales of juices and smoothies have been sliding as the “sugar is evil” message gains ground in the media and in the minds of consumers. Could it be that as alternatives multiply juice and smoothies are going to follow colas and other carbonates onto the path of a long slow decline?

The challenge for brands such as Coca-Cola-owned Innocent and PepsiCo-owned Tropicana is that they long depended on their products having a “naturally healthy” image. But their core consumers include the most heath-conscious people and they are also the first ones to have taken onboard the anti-sugar message.

Unsurprisingly, taking the UK market as an example, sales have been hit hard. In 2014:

• Market leader Tropicana experienced a 6.8% drop in sales
• Innocent, the second-biggest player, experienced an 11.2% fall in sales

It isn’t difficult to find what people – especially younger people – are drinking instead:

  • Sales of coconut water – which is low in calories and most brands are sold with no added sweetener – jumped. Vita Coca, the biggest brand, experienced an 88% sales increase.
  • Bottled water sales also rose, with the UK bottled water market increasing by 11.2% by value and 8.9% by volume.

For plant waters – be they coconut, maple, birch, bamboo or another – the future looks bright:

• They are often naturally sweet and naturally low in calories.
• They come from sustainable sources.
• Most can be packaged with minimal processing.

So it’s no surprise that Coca-Cola-owned Innocent has just announced the launch of its first line of coconut water – and a line of sparkling water blended with fruit juice.

Innocent coconut water has just 8.5g of sugars per 250 ml serve – compared to the 27.3g per serve in its mango and passionfruit smoothie (one of the company’s three top-sellers).

Innocent’s move is just the beginning of a long-term shift. Younger consumers – the Millenials – are driving the switch to plant waters and bottled waters. The next generation after the Millenials – currently aged under 18 – will further accelerate the switch away from juice, since a larger proportion of them have grown up without any juice habit. There is an astonishing number of children today who don’t consume juice even once a week.

As plant waters become more common, people concerned about the sugar content of juice will choose them more and more.

It’s one of those rare moments when what’s on the horizon is very clear.


Posted in Editorial, Mainsite

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