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Fresh Juice-Based Beverages Move Into Mainstream

Today's drinks emphasize their healthy attributes while offering new varieties featuring innovative ingredients
a man looking at the camera
Blendid is bringing the public healthy smoothies via robotic preparation using kiosks placed in locations that even include college and hospital sites.

Functional and related better-for-you beverages, including juice-based drinks promising health and energy benefits, are moving into the mainstream in an almost dizzying profusion as producers develop formulations with flavor and nutritional profiles that meet diverse preferences.

Featuring organic, natural and clean formulations that exclude artificial ingredients, they provide wellness benefits, but as these products become more popular, many makers are touting or adding to those refreshment attributes.

Marsha Everton, principal and founder of the Lemoyne, Pa.-based Aimsights Group, a Millennial- and Gen Z-focused market researcher says that, although they are associated with younger consumers, better-for-you beverages have gained favor across demographics.

“People of all ages are choosing their beverages based on their health-and-wellness interests,” notes Everton. “Consumers are actively searching for better-for-you offerings. ‘No added sugar’ and ‘no artificial sweeteners’ are specific important trends.”

Still, consumers have various priorities. According to Kathy Risch, SVP shopper insights and thought leadership at Jacksonville, Fla.-based Acosta Group, consumers weigh benefits based on personal preference, and decision-making includes a price component. Risch says that people typically begin buying better-for-you drinks because of their organic, natural and clean-label proposition, and then search for additional benefits provided by wellness-oriented ingredients.

“Communication and transparency are important,” she asserts.

Often, consumers scan ingredients for specific benefits, which might be vitamins, but may also be energy boosters such as natural caffeine. However, she notes, better-for-you beverage consumers will weigh ingredients against price on an approximately equal basis.

Health-Ade Kombucha
Health-Ade Kombucha has revealed a multiyear partnership with popular celebrity Ryan Seacrest, who will help create advertising and omnichannel media content for the brand.

‘The Fresh-Squeezed Experience’

In terms of the energy drink trend, Uncle Matt’s Organic, based in Clermont, Fla., recently reintroduced its Ultimate Energy juice drink with clean caffeine and what it describes as a smoother, sweeter taste.

Dom’s Kitchen & Market, a grocery-and-foodservice combo operation, has integrated better-for-you beverages deeply into both of its Chicago locations, which is consistent with the retailer’s quality gourmet, organic and natural product orientation.

[Read more: "How Dom’s Kitchen & Market Is Diversifying Its Better-For-You Drink Portfolio"]

Lauren Bijur, Dom’s senior category manager, perishables, observes that what she terms the non-soft drink category “has just exploded.”

The company stocks established juices such as Simply Juice, Uncle Matt’s and Natalie’s. It also has its own store-made fresh juice program.

“That’s where we do more volume,” Bijur says. “We really wanted to give the customer the fresh-squeezed experience, something like you might get in a café in Europe or at a fresh juice bar. It’s not just orange juice — it’s celery juice, it’s beet juice. One of our best-sellers is watermelon juice. Then we have combinations, and they all just resonate really well with customers.”

Store-made fresh is almost 70% of Dom’s total juice business.

The company also sells a line of fresh bottled juices made in conjunction with a local cold-press juicer. Although it’s only seven items deep, the cold-pressed bottled juice line represents an additional 15% of total juice sales, according to Bijur.

Proper Extractions

An extraction company founded in 2001, Javo uses proprietary technology and product development processes to produce clean-label coffee, tea and botanical extracts for the foodservice industry and CPG beverage makers.

“Inherently, everything that we’re starting with as a product, the extracts are pure,” says Chris Johnson, EVP of sales and marketing at Javo, based in Vista, Calif. “It’s about developing products using those pure extracts, that natural, clean-label authenticity all the way to the cup.”
According to Johnson, more beverage consumers today want to see fewer artificial ingredients on labels.

“The majority of the camp falls into consumers who are wanting to consume healthier food and beverages,” he adds. “Natural is important, being able to read and understand labels and not having 10-syllable-long ingredients in their products.”

That approach is now extending into more beverage segments, he points out.

“What’s really trending in energy is clean energy,” notes Johnson. “Cold brew falls in that space: natural, higher caffeine content, clean, low-calorie, no-sugar natural cold brew.”

However, all else taken into consideration, drinks still have to taste good, even if flavor profiles are evolving.

“Consumers want flavors that have some familiarity but stretch,” explains Johnson, “so if it’s a lemonade, it’s yuzu lemonade. Yuzu is trending but in the adoption phase.”

Smoothie Operators

Meanwhile, Blendid is bringing the public healthy smoothies via robotic preparation using kiosks placed in locations that even include college and hospital sites.

Vipin Jain, CEO of Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Blendid, says that the company gives its customers a wide choice of ingredients. All Blendid ingredients are plant-based, except for kefir, and they are all-natural. Juices used in the smoothies are 100% natural and have no added sugar, for example. Other ingredients offered include fruits, nuts, seeds and spices such as turmeric, which is gaining favor for its health benefits. Even as Blendid emphasizes choice in smoothie preparation, it does so with the intent of keeping prices reasonable and the flavor enticing.

“Healthy food doesn’t always go hand in hand with affordability and taste,” asserts Jain. “Consumers are drawn to Blendid because it meets all of their needs: food that is fresh, healthy, affordable, personalized, and can be ordered or scheduled for pickup from their mobile device.”

Koe Kombucha
Along with being organic, flavor is key to the Koe Kombucha proposition. Tropical is one of the brand's newest offerings.

Unexpected Flavors

Koe Kombucha is intent on reaching the consumer in general. The formulation mixes organic juices, caffeine for energy, vitamin C and other beneficial ingredients with probiotic-rich kombucha, all in a flavor profile designed to attract the average consumer.

Even so, Koe’s organic inclusions are important, and not only for strict adherents. Many mainstream consumers understand the term as signaling purity.

“We decided to go organic and stay organic to ensure everything we put in has that extra layer of safety,” affirms Bree Taylor, VP of marketing at Los Angeles-based Koe Kombucha.

Along with being organic, flavor is key to the Koe proposition. The line starts with the familiar but moves into the more adventurous. Tropical and watermelon are newest and strawberry lemonade is a well-known combination, but then the line extends to mango, raspberry dragonfruit and blueberry ginger to give all consumers something that might be in their wheelhouse.

Established brands in the better-for-you sector are continually updating their approach to the consumer as they move more broadly and deeply into consumer consciousness. In that vein, Natalie’s has launched Tomato Reishi Juice, with an infusion of holistic ingredients, including adaptogens and spices, for a robust flavor that might remind a consumer of a Virgin Mary, or, with the right help, a Bloody Mary. The Fort Pierce, Fla.-based company has also rolled out Tangerine, Pineapple, Aloe, Sweet Basil Juice. Oranges and tangerines provide vitamin C, while immune-supporting pineapples and aloe vera make the product even healthier, with sweet basil kicking up the flavor.

Los Angeles-based Health-Aid, another kombucha drink maker, characterized its products first as delicious bubbly beverages, and then as supporting gut health. It just revealed a multiyear partnership with popular celebrity Ryan Seacrest, who will help create advertising and omnichannel media content for the brand.

“Health-Ade Kombucha provides a deliciously refreshing taste unlike any other kombucha in the marketplace,” notes Health-Ade Chief Marketing Officer Charlotte Mostaed. “We work with best-in-class flavor creators, and our proprietary brewing technique delivers a well-rounded mouthfeel that is truly craveable: at once sweet and slightly tart, with a depth and quality to the flavor and juices that are unmatched in the category. We are also differentiated by the power of our brand: We are leading the way in growing the category, bringing kombucha to mainstream audiences and launching marketing campaigns that help demystify kombucha for those that are interested in trying it for the first time.” 

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