EXPERT COLUMN: Feasting on Fasting

It wasn’t so long ago that the phrase “doing a cleanse” brought medical needs, spiritual yens or weight-loss methodologies to mind. But today, the cleanse craze has gone mainstream as a solution for maladies ranging from fatigue to flawed skin, spurring an industry on pace to hit $1.1 billion in sales in 2015, according to a story by CNBC.

Cleanse programs usually involve fruit and vegetable juice-based diets of variable duration aimed at eliminating toxins from the body, and sometimes weight loss and improved energy.

Recent high-profile moves by beverage giants into the fresh juice category further substantiate the trend, which a few notable, small start-ups have ridden to big business success. For example, handmade juice company BluePrintCleanse, founded in 2007 in a Chelsea, N.Y., kitchen with a $5,000 loan, grew to a staggering $20 million in sales within five years and was bought by The Hain Celestial Group in December 2012, as reported by Nutraceuticals World.

In mid-2012, Campbell Soup bought Bakersfield, Calif.-based juice and salad dressing company Bolthouse Farms for $1.55 billion in its largest deal ever, according to The New York Times “Dealbook,” with an eye toward augmenting its healthy offerings anchored by the V-8 drink line. Meanwhile, Starbucks, which acquired juice and smoothie maker Evolution Fresh in 2001, now has plans to take the brand into 8,000 cafes and stores in cooperation with Whole Foods, in a deal The Wall Street Journal reported this past summer.

'Cleanse Craze'

So what’s behind this escalating cleansing craze, and how can companies with packaged juice and smoothie portfolios position themselves to get a piece of it?

“What was once seen as niche or requiring extreme deprivation from liquid detox programs like the original Master Cleanse is now gaining popularity with a broad range of programs and plans with strong celebrity and nutritional expert endorsements,” said Ryan Thierrault, VP of marketing at Sambazon.

Convenience and relative cost are a large part of the trend for consumers who were already juicing at home, according to Alan Murray, CEO of GoodBelly/Next Foods, which makes a probiotic juice drink that replenishes good bacteria that might otherwise be washed out in the purgative cleanse process.

“Though these cleanse products can be expensive, they can still be cheaper and certainly more convenient than buying raw ingredients, juicing them yourself and then dealing with the mess,” said Murray.

So fuel to fire this trend in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) market comes from the perception that packaged cleanses are more nutritionally beneficial, celebrity approved, affordable, more accessible and far easier to use than the subscription-based or homemade models. For instance, Sambazon’s three-day cleanse, which the company intended to be supplemented by solid foods, consists of three different ready-made formulas to address elimination, preparation and recharging throughout the day.

Not surprisingly, given this category’s target markets, packaging has turned out to be an important component of the marketing strategy. GoodBelly’s Murray noted that cartons are a natural fit for a consumer who is attracted to the idea of juicing or cleansing.

“The type of consumers who are consuming GoodBelly products are more socially conscious and environmentally aware, and the carton is the obviously preferred choice when it comes to sustainability,” Murray said.

Similarly, Elizabeth Lombardi, senior brand director for Sambazon points out that cartons are more simpatico with this product category. Originally packaged in PET, the Sambazon cleanse products are now sold in Tetra Pak’s Tetra Gemina Aseptic with DreamCap.

“We tested with consumers the idea of PET (bottles) versus Tetra, and the carton concept scored much, much higher in terms of environmental sustainability and being able to be recycled,” Lombardi said.

While the jury is still out on the efficacy of cleanses for health, spiritual or medical reasons, there is little doubt this beverage category will continue to grow for some time. But packaged cleanse manufacturers – as opposed to firms making the much pricier daily, fresh-pressed subscription models – must weigh heavily how their processing, packaging and distribution models interact with the products’ nutritional value and image in terms of renewability. The opportunity is there for manufacturers who can quickly bring innovative and attractively packaged formulations to market.

Suley Muratoglu is VP, marketing & product management for Tetra Pak Inc. U.S & Canada.

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