The Juice Is Loose

C-stores squeezing out sweet profits from refrigerated juice.

By  Abbey Lewis, Executive Editor

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While sales of juice are declining across other industries, chances are they’re up in your stores. 
 
Overall, U.S. consumers’ taste for orange juice is souring, and health-conscious customers are shying away from some of the more sugary beverages altogether. But while the category may be struggling in other channels, c-stores are enjoying a nice juice boost.
 
Sales are up across the board, totaling almost 13% over last year, according to Chicago-based IRI. Refrigerated blended fruit juices are carrying much of that upward momentum. According to data from IRI, in the 52 weeks ending Oct. 6, 2013, products such as Simply Orange blended fruit juice, Odwalla and Dole blended fruit juices have helped boost that subcategory’s sales by 120% since last year. Even dollar sales of orange juice, which are down across all industries to their lowest levels in 15 years, are up almost 3% in c-stores. Juice and drink smoothies were also up in sales by nearly 30%, according to IRI.
 
“Consumers continue to demonstrate interest in beverages with functional benefits, particularly those high in protein, fiber and vitamins/minerals. Ingredients such as chia seed, coconut water and almond milk are a great reflection of that demand,” says Suzanne Ginestro, vice president of marketing for Bakersfield, Calif.-based Bolthouse Farms. “The vegetable juicing trend is also growing, as more mainstream consumers look for ways to get daily servings of vegetables in quick and easy formats.”
 
A 2012 study from Chicago-based Mintel International confirms that almost 19 million adults purchase coconut water, for example, and another 23 million say they’ve tried it.
 
“Greater innovation and focus on healthier options that taste good seem to be driving growth,” says Carl Sweat, chief marketing and commercial officer for Atlanta-based In Zone Brands, manufacturer of BellyWasher and TummyTickler juice lines. “Premium juice products and packaging are driving dollar growth ahead of units, indicating consumers are willing to pay for added value.”
 

Who’s Juicing?

It seems safe to say that the health-conscious customer is the top buyer of juice, but some studies show that healthy consumers are shying away from juice with added sugar. Mintel’s study found that three-quarters of all juice and juice-drink buyers don’t think that manufacturers should add sugar to 100% juices. 
 
Independent retailer Josh Lund of Beaudry Express, Elk River, Minn., says that if his juice sales are down, it’s because people are looking for healthier alternatives. Local folks are asking for certain better-for-you products, in particular new sports drinks Aspire Beverages, available only in select Holiday Stationstores in Minnesota. 

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