Is it, isn’t it? With sugar coming under increased scrutiny, it’s hard to know where fruit juices stand. They typically contain naturally occurring sugars but deliver a host of other health benefits too. In a month when the UK government confirmed that its sugar tax would go ahead as planned – albeit bringing in £140 million less than expected – FoodBev looks at four reasons why the juice category can be optimistic for the future.
Despite criticism from some quarters, European millennials still see natural fruit juices as a healthy beverage. That’s the main conclusion from a poll of 300 millennial juice drinkers in France and Germany, conducted by the juice supplier Welch’s. When asked to rank the healthfulness of a selection of popular beverages, 100% fruit juice charts alongside sparkling water and milk as one of the healthiest options. The results, Welch’s said, show that the 100% juice category remains largely untarnished despite some bad press in recent years.
Reiterating what has fast become a consensus, Welch’s Global Ingredients Group vice-president Wayne Lutomski said: “Millennial fruit juice drinkers believe what we have known for years; 100% fruit juice is a delicious and nutritious beverage choice that can be part of a well-balanced diet. It’s clear that these consumers appreciate that fruit juice not only contains natural sugars, but also delivers science-backed benefits and valuable nutrients for health.”
Sugar has become public enemy number one, and it’s enough to ruin the reputation of any beverage category. But juices might find salvation in recently published research that shows the effect of regular consumption might be lesser than first expected. According to scientists at the University of Washington in Seattle, children who drink one serving of 100% fruit juice a day are no more likely to gain weight than those who don’t. Fruit juice wasn’t linked to any weight gain in children aged 7-18, the study found, despite current medical advice to limit children’s intake of fruit juice with naturally occurring sugar.
Yet fruit juices are at risk of being cut out of recommendations to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables. One change that would certainly help is fruit juice being able to state on pack that it contains no added sugar. It does not contain added sugars but, under European legislation, is not allowed to say so.
Not only are juices getting healthier, they’re getting more sustainable too. Companies like PepsiCo are listening to consumers with reduced-sugar versions of their brands. And this week, some of the biggest players in European juices have signed a commitment to make their products more sustainable, too.
Döhler, FrieslandCampina Riedel, Refresco and Verbruggen Juice Trading have all signed up to IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative – a global covenant targeting 100% verified sustainable sourcing for their juices within the next decade. With the support of the European Fruit Juice Association (AIJN), they will work on the certification and verification of their supply chains and jointly set up projects to address specific sustainability issues such as smallholder inclusion, working conditions, soil degradation, and climate resilience. The move is a show of strength for the sector – particularly for Riedel, the brand put up for sale by FrieslandCampina in February amid a rumoured decline in volume.
With fizzy drinks coming under both social and legislative scrutiny, the range of options seen as ‘permissible’ is narrowing. But juice can hold on to its claim as one of them, and here’s why. Earlier this month, figures from the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) and Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC) showed that bottled water had overtaken sugary soda as the US’ drink of choice for the first time ever. Consumption grew to to 39.3 gallons per person last year, while average consumption of carbonated soft drinks fell to around 38.5 gallons per person. The development underlines the shift away from carbonates and shows that there is opportunity for healthier categories like bottled water and pure juices.
The global juice market is forecast to grow by 5% a year over the next four years, food and drinks consultancy Zenith Global has said. Fruit drinks are the leading segment, accounting for around half of consumption in 2015. And per-person consumption of 100% fruit juice was highest in North America and western Europe, with Asia-Pacific the largest market in volume terms.
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