by Donna Berry
A lot has changed in the juice beverage business in the past 25 years, much out of necessity. The category needed a makeover to stay competitive and keep consumers drinking juice, as many learned to think of fruit and vegetable extractions as concentrated sources of empty-calorie sugars.
Today juices are being used in combination with other fluids and better-for-you ingredients to improve their nutritional value. Many emphasize their sourcing while others promote the juicing process. In some instances, the juice serves as a flavor or sweetening ingredient to a different base beverage. It’s even getting boozed up.
Molson Coors Beverage Company, for example, is expanding its Vizzy Hard Seltzer portfolio with the introduction of Vizzy Mimosa Hard Seltzer. Inspired by the mimosa cocktail, the hard seltzer is made with real orange juice, mimosa inspired flavors and antioxidant vitamin C from the acerola fruit. The new product is available in four different flavors: Peach Orange, Pineapple Orange, Pomegranate Orange and Strawberry Orange.
Fruit juice helps “naturally” sweeten caffeinated beverages, such as Starbucks Refreshers, where the caffeine comes from green coffee extract. There’s also MTN DEW KICKSTART from PepsiCo, which is a fusion of Mountain Dew soda, real fruit juice and a kick of caffeine. Both lines have been around for almost a decade, with flavors coming and going. It’s all about switching up the juice component. Some of the trendy offerings in the KICKSTART line now include Blood Orange, Blueberry Pomegranate and Watermelon.
Watermelon juice has been gaining traction among health aficionados for its high antioxidant (lycopene) and electrolyte (potassium) content. In the U.S., Frey Farms—one of the largest processors of watermelon juice in the country–is responding to growing interest in watermelon juice through a major expansion to its cold-pressed processing center. It will yield 6,000 gallons of cold-pressed, unpasteurized watermelon juice per day. Each watermelon undergoes a proprietary process that uses minimal processing techniques to cold extract the juice and chill it to near freezing within minutes. This innovative process helps to maintain superior flavor while retaining its natural color, as well as nutrients. In addition to the original watermelon juice, the company now offers a watermelon juice and coconut water blend, with more concepts in the works.
Cold-press processing is a key to many of the newer 100% juice products entering the marketplace. The more traditional method of extracting liquid from fruits and vegetables is centrifugal juicing. This is where fast-spinning blades expel the juices, as compared to the slow pulverizer with hydraulic press used in cold-pressed technology. Most of the bottled juice brands driving sales in the category fall into the category of cold pressed, with many of these juices further undergoing high-pressure processing (HPP) in order to obtain about a 30-day refrigerated shelf life. The HPP technology uses very high pressure and no heat to kill potentially harmful microorganisms to ensure a safe and good-tasting product.
Consumer interest in cold-pressed juice is fueled by research showing that this type of juicing preserves the integrity of vitamins, minerals and enzymes. This is because the blades encountered in centrifugal juicing generate heat and circulate air, both of which have a deleterious effect on nutrients. With cold-pressed processing, these elements are negligible.
Kayco Beyond is debuting Wonder Lemon, a first-of-its-kind, 100% organic cold-pressed juice with zero added sugar. Lemon juice, the primary fruit in the beverages, is rich in vitamins A and C, as well as calcium, potassium and beta-carotene, positioning lemon as being helpful for immunity, fatigue, and mood. The drink comes in three flavors: Lemon Basil Jalapeño, Lemon Ginger and Lemon Mint, each made with only five to six ingredients, with less than 110 calories per bottle and made up of 100% natural fruits and vegetables and no added sugar, artificial flavors, preservatives, additives or artificial coloring.
“Lemon has been a popular drink flavour forever, but most people don’t realize how much benefit lemons actually provide,” said Laura Morris, associate marketing director at Kayco Brands. “Unlike many other fruits, a lot of people don’t want to just bite into a tart, sour lemon, so they just squeeze it into some water, losing a lot of the great flavor. That’s why we created Wonder Lemon, to give our customers those incredible health benefits while maintaining the full, delicious flavor of the lemon.”
Gunna Craft Soft Drinks uses real lemon juice concentrate, along with other fruits juices, to make its craft lemonades. Two of the company’s newest offerings are Sundowner Lime Lemonade and Turtle Juice Tropical Lemonade.
When co-founder Chris Prowting was asked to describe the flavour development process in three words, he went with “exciting, fruity and tiring.” The process involves refining the flavors from an idea to an excellent drink.
“Having new ideas and inspiration is relatively easy, but the fun (and hard work) is in finding the right type and combinations of flavors to create a new soft drink that is truly delicious,” he said.
Each of Gunna’s drinks are named after the location of the inspiration behind each recipe. Sundowner, for example, is inspired by lemon, lime and bitters, a concoction widely enjoyed across Australia. Turtle Juice is inspired by a specific mango daiquiri cocktail enjoyed in St. Lucia.
“Turtle Juice is packed with sweet mangos, a zesty twist of lime and a hint of coconut,” said Prowting. “Adding a new dimension to traditional mango drinks, we’ve incorporated the sourness of lime to cut through the sweet mangos and a hint of coconut to add a tropical complexity without overpowering it.”
Garden of Flavor markets a range of cold-pressed juices. The brand’s newest offering is Pear Reishi Energy Elixir, which includes two superfoods: Lion’s Mane and Chaga mushrooms. Both are known to support brain health, promote better sleep and help the body adapt to stress. These superfoods, along with reishi, another mushroom, get blended with ingredients like organic pear juice, lemon juice, guayusa and probiotic cultures to help support mental clarity and energy levels even further.
Adding probiotics to juices is not new, but really only in the past few years have consumers caught on that not just milk and yogurt can be a carrier of these beneficial live and active bacteria. Juice can, too.
PepsiCo has been doing it the past few years under its Naked Juice brand, which also includes a line of cold-pressed juices. The brand’s newest offerings are two vegan smoothies: Orange Vanilla Crème and Key Lime. They combine almond milk with fruit juices and are sweetened with monkfruit.
Evive, makers of the blender-less smoothie, is rolling out three “Super Functional” offerings. Each superfood packed, certified organic and vegan smoothie is offered in frozen cubes. Simply pop into a bottle, add water, juice or plant-based milk and shake. “Energy” is a combination of raspberry, blackberry and mint that helps boost energy without any caffeine thanks to the addition of panax ginseng, goji berries, medium chain triglyceride oil, pitaya powder and moringa. Banana, mango and beet round out the energizing effects
“Zen” has a calming lavender hue and boasts the subtly sweet flavors of blueberry, peach, vanilla and lavender. Light and creamy on the palate, the drink is packed with superfoods that support mindfulness, including ashwagandha, vanilla bean, flaxseed and wild blueberries. Zen also includes banana, edamame and avocado, which amplify the calming effects.
“Immunity” combines cherry, orange, elderberry and hibiscus into a potent brew packed with 17 vitamins and minerals. It also carries superfoods with key nutrients for immunity, including camu camu, sea buckthorn and rosehip; and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries, carrots and red bell peppers.
Immunity is a key attraction with many of today’s juices. Old Orchard Brands now offers Old Orchard’s Immune Health Blends, which are 100% fruit juice fortified with vitamins A, B6, C and E, along with zinc.
Less sugar also increases a juice’s market appeal. Uncle Matt’s Organic is rolling out Matt50 Orange Juice Beverage. It contains half the sugar and calories as regular orange juice and is boosted with vitamin C for immunity, plus prebiotics and probiotics for gut health and immune support.
“You can now have your juice and drink it too with just 50 calories per serving,” said Susan McLean, vice president of marketing and innovation. “Sweetened with organic stevia, Matt50 delivers on taste and nutrition.”
Another fruit gaining attraction postpandemic is the Montmorency tart cherry, which is grown largely in the U.S. and Canada. These cherries are abundant in anthocyanins, the natural flavonoid compounds that contribute to the ruby-red color and distinctive sour-sweet taste. The fruit has become the source of more than 50 studies supporting varied health and wellness qualities. It’s most well-recognized benefit is as an anti-inflammatory agent. It has been shown to assist with general pain relief, reducing muscle soreness after exercise and easing arthritic or gout pain.
Through the presence of melatonin, a human sleep regulating hormone, tart cherries have also gained notoriety as a natural sleep aid. In addition, as a concentrated source of vitamin C, tart cherries serve as a natural immune system regulator.
FruitHaven’s Super Fruit Juice blends Montmorency cherries with sweet cherries, pomegranate, cranberries, blueberries and currants. With no added sweeteners, the juice is described as helping an energy boost for increased mental and physical strength.
Dole Packaged Foods has entered the tropical juice category with beverages with benefits. New Dole Fruitify Glow combines pineapple and mango juice with turmeric. Dole Fruitify Energize is pineapple juice with green tea extract and Dole Fruitify Replenish is pineapple juice and coconut water.
Longtime juice category player Ocean Spray has been busy keeping cranberry relevant to consumers. New Frutas Frescas is a line of light beverages containing fewer calories and sugar than leading juice drinks. Available in three flavor offerings rooted in the cranberry–Cranberry Pineapple Passion Fruit, Cranberry Lemon Raspberry and Cranberry Raspberry Pear–Frutas Frescas are made with real fruit juice, no artificial sweeteners and boosted with vitamin C. In addition, Ocean Spray has introduced two new flavors of 100% Juice: Cranberry Elderberry and Cranberry Watermelon.
Graasi Barley Water is a new concept designed to satisfy consumer cravings for more hydration, immunity and overall wellness. The line of ready-to-drink organic waters has organic barley grass juice powder as a key ingredient. It comes from the tender young grass grown from barley seed. Barley grass is harvested at the peak of its chlorophyll, protein and vitamin concentration, before the grass produces any grain. In addition to the wellness benefits provided from barley grass juice powder (fiber, vitamins and antioxidants), each bottle contains vitamin C, D and zinc. It comes in three flavors: Citrus Mint, Cucumber Lime and Lemongrass Ginger.
“When developing a new line of functional waters, we focused on unique ingredients that would promote overall wellness and self-care,” said Chris LaCorata, founder of Graasi. “Barley water has been consumed by cultures around the world for thousands of years as a general wellness drink. We’re bringing it back and making it better with organic ingredients and immunity boosting vitamins and minerals.”
Speaking of hydration, pickle juice is now getting bottled for its benefits. Pickle juice is loaded with electrolytes in the form of sodium (from the brine), as well as some potassium and magnesium, making it a natural way to rehydrate after exercise. Pickle juice also contains probiotics from the natural fermentation that turns cucumbers into pickles.
Mt. Olive has been offering its pickle juice in 2-ounce shot-style bottles for a few years. The company recently rolled out a 64-ounce jug for extra thirsty people.
As consumers learn the benefits of whole food nutrition, and prioritize health and wellness, expect to see more innovations in the fruit and vegetable juice space.
Donna Berry is a food and beverage industry consultant and editor with over 25 years experience in tracking trends and advancements in product development.