Sparkling Juices’ Next Degree

SPARKLING JUICES MAY BE NEARING GRADUATION. The segment emerged more than a decade ago as a new-age alternative to sodas, and later dove eagerly into schools where they jostled for position in a venue legislatively required to stock healthier, more natural drinks. Now, some brands say the segment is getting ready to rejoin the adult world – but it may look different after this trip through school.

Bill Hargis, founder of Fruit66-maker 4U2U brands, said his company has already begun to engage in extracurricular activities. He formulated the product specifically for the in-school market, aiming at the narrow target formed by students’ overlapping taste, calorie and nutrition needs. That venue has proved to have a high volume potential, he said, with individual schools churning as many as 150 cases a month and many district contracts accounting for dozens of institutions. Not only has the product succeeded there, he said, but his success has earned him placement at Publix. Parents at schools stocking Fruit66 made so many requests of the grocer, he said, that the chain called him.

“I think retail is not something to be forced,” Hargis said. “When they call you and ask you about the product, boy, that’s a whole different feeling.”

Meanwhile, IZZE, which maintains a presence in schools through its Fortified line of 8 oz. cans, has supplemented its educational focus with a new line extension. The brand recently reintroduced IZZE esque, a reduced-calorie sparkler with less juice than the brand’s flagship line. The final product boasts just 50 calories per 12 oz. bottle, 40 calories less than the 90 found in IZZE Fortified. Its glass bottle keeps it out of schools, but as with the original IZZE esque, the company had other consumers in mind. In a written response, IZZE said the product targets “people who live healthy, active lifestyles or anyone who is looking for a light, crisp natural beverage” – in other words, the same consumers the company has always targeted.

On the other end of the category, more indulgent sparkling juices may be gaining ground as an alternative to both sodas and alcoholic beverages. Chris Reed, founder and CEO of Reed’s Inc., said his company recently launched a brand called California Juices that has “taken off like a rocket.”

“The future in my eyes is not… cheap, watered down, stripped juice,” he said. Instead, he expects more robust juices, like those you get in Italian sodas, to thrive.

He already sees it happening, he said. After acquiring Sonoma Sparkler in October, his company started packaging private label juices for grocery chains. Along the way, he said, he has run into Galvanina’s sparkling juices in every major super market chain around the country.

Kristen Walker, a senior analyst at Mintel, sees a different twist in sparkling juice’s future. She’s been noticing a trend toward “hybrid” beverages that include juice as part of a sparkling concoction which may also include teas, botanicals or herbal extracts. For example, three of Jones Soda Co.’s GABA flavors included 12 percent juice, and Vuka combines sparkling juice with traditional energy ingredients including natural caffeine.

No matter what form they come in, it appears that sparkling juices may be getting ready to don their mortar boards and get into the real world.

The Mamosi Beverage Company. In 2009, Mamosi arrived at grocers, Costcos, and liquor retailers in Texas.

Hiball. Hiball’s new Sparkling Energy Juice is available in six Whole Foods regions: Pacific Northwest, Northern California, Southern Pacific, South, North Atlantic and Rocky Mountain. The new line has also been authorized at Fred Meyer, and Hiball added Amazon.com as its premier online retailer.

PepsiCo. IZZE Beverage Company announced that it has launched its newly reformulated, low-calorie IZZE esque. The line has been reformulated with 25 percent pure fruit juice and sparkling water. Every 12 oz. bottle has 50 calories and 11 grams of sugar.

4U2U Brands. Fruit 66 announced placement at Publix Super Markets, Inc. and Gordon Food Service, North America’s largest family-owned foodservice distributor.

Envy Foods. Envy Foods announced that Envy Juice has added placement at markets across the country.

New Horizon Beverage Group. New Horizon Beverage Group launched Frunae Vitamin Spritzer. The all-natural sparkling juice is comprised of 70 percent pure fruit juice and a splash of sparkling water. Frunae is available online at www.frunae.com and in select outlets in the Mid-Atlantic and Texas. Frunae comes in five flavors: Kiwi Strawberry, Pomegranate Apple, Orange Pineapple, Blackberry Citrus and Peach Mango.

The Switch. The Switch has rolled out 4-packs to Kroger, Hannaford, Tops A&P and Stew Leonards.

Vuka LLC. Vuka LLC announced the launch of a new line of four sparkling and juice-based energy drinks – Awaken, Think, Workout, and Renew.

Fizzy Lizzy. Fizzy Lizzy has obtained kosher certification from the Orthodox Union (“OU”). The company also reformulated Northern Lights Cranberry and Pacific Raspberry Lemon. The new formulations reduce the per-bottle calorie-count from 150 to 80, and reduced the per-bottle sugar content from 29 to 19 grams.

“Hybrid” beverages that include juice as part of a sparkling concoction, such as Jones Soda Co.’s GABA and Vuka, are gaining in popularity.