Sparkle and Fade

The sparkle has faded from the sparkling juice category – at least in the retail sector. Consumers bought a total of $77.1 million worth of sparking juices in supermarkets, drugstores and mass merchandise outlets (excluding Wal-Mart) during 52 weeks ending Nov. 2 2008, according to Information Resources Inc. That yearly sales figure scarcely tops the $75 million that PepsiCo paid for Izze in 2006, and is dwarfed in comparison to the $275 million IRI reported that Americans shelled out for tomato juice and vegetable juice cocktails during the same period. Additionally, when Beverage Spectrum last assessed sparking juices in April 2008, the category’s sales were closer to $78 million.

Of course, that slide doesn’t take school sales into account. Grade school campuses represent a hard-to-monitor sweet spot for sparkling juice as The American Beverage Association finishes rolling out voluntary beverage guidelines this fall. To fill the new demand, firms have ushered out several sparkling juices. Apple & Eve created a carbonated extension called fizz ed., and 4U2U Brands introduced Fruit 66. Both selections come in portion-controlled 8 oz. cans, and 4U2U CEO Bill Hargis says his brand has now penetrated school systems in 45 states.

“We’re totally focused on the schools,” Hargis says.

Despite that focus, Hargis says his company has experienced some retail spillover. Students will drink the product at school, and then their parents go looking for it at the grocery store, he says. Now, he says, grocery stores in five states carry Fruit 66.

“When you get a bunch of moms that are really behind what you’re doing, they are relentless,” Hargis says.

Even with Hargis’ reported success, it doesn’t look like school-?to-store transfer is a broad trend in the category. If anything, the numbers suggest that kids seem as excited to see sparkling juices outside of school as they are to see those little boxes of milk outside the cafeteria.

It’s worth noting that Izze represents the only recent sparkling juice acquisition by the big beverage firms. Despite a number of potential targets, including Fizzy Lizzy and Skylarhaley’s essn, Coca-Cola still doesn’t own a sparkling juice brand, and Dr Pepper Snapple Group seems content to stick with their Orangina line. When considering the depth and breadth of major beverage companies’ portfolios, that suggests that the big firms’ interest in this category may be waning. Still, hope springs eternal, especially in the schools.

BRAND NEWS

HiBix Corp

OOOBA Launched nationally through Whole Foods Markets in October 2008, with two flavors, Hibiscus with Orange and Hibiscus with Lime. OOBA’s newest flavor, Hibiscus, will be rolled out in the first quarter of 2009. OOBA Hibiscus has only five 100 percent natural ingredients: carbonated water, cane sugar, pure hibiscus extract, citric acid and ascorbic acid. All three flavors are available in 16 oz. bottles.

Envy Foods

Envy recently added Sysco as a new distribution partner in certain areas of the Midwest. Envy started with 3 flavors (Fruit Punch, Strawberry Kiwi, Fuji Apple) and has since expanded into the exotic fruits with Tropical Mango and Acai Berry.

Sklarhaley

Skylarhaley unveiled a new flavor in its line of essn beverages—sparkling mango and passion fruit juice. Packaged in 8.4 oz. cans, essn juices are also offered in five other varieties: fuji apple, meyer lemon, blood orange and cranberry, minneola tangerine, and sparkling pomegranate and montmorency cherry. essn drinks are available at select Safeway, Albertson’s, and Jamba Juice stores and Kroger’s Southwest.

Biotta

Available in the U.S. in February 2009, Biotta Organic Energy Drink is made from 87 percent fruit juices – with a slight amount of carbonation. Biotta juices contain no artificial additives and are never made from concentrate. Biotta Energy Drink is packed in 12 oz. and 8.4 oz. glass bottles.

SunTropics

Launched in October, SunTropics Sparkling Calamansi is available through JFC International, one of the largest Asian Foods Distributor in the US. Calamansi is a Philippine lemon with a flavor that is closer to that of a lime. The product is currently available in Asian supermarkets in California, and is the first product in SunTropics’ Sparkling Nectars line.

Apple & Eve

Fizz Ed was recently approved nationally by Vistar Vending Distributors, and is already carried in over 100 school districts from California to the East Coast. Fizz Ed is made with 70 percent real fruit juice and 30 percent sparkling water, with 1 gram of fiber in each serving. Fizz Ed comes in four flavors and is packaged in 8.4 oz. slim cans. It contains no artificial flavors or high fructose corn syrup.

R.W. Knudsen Family

The R.W. Knudsen Family Spritzers are made from 100 percent real fruit juice and sparkling water, no sugar added. They come in flavors including Black Cherry, Tangerine, Red Raspberry, Peach and Boysenberry. The R.W. Knudsen Family Spritzers are sold in 12 oz. cans, at $4.99 per 6-pack

Switch Beverage Company

Over the past few months The Switch has added several distributors to the roster, including Wright Wisner and AL George in upstate N.Y., Cloverland in Del., US Foods in Penn. and Southern N.J., Home Juice in the Chicagoland market and Spike Beverages across the entire state of Ariz. The company also more than doubled its sales team with six new hires.

Sonoma Sparkler

Sonoma Sparkler recently added Sonoma Sparkler Blood Orange to its 10 oz. Single Serve line. Sonoma Sparkler’s flavors include Natural Pear, Natural Peach, Natural Raspberry, Organic Apple and Organic Lemonade. All of the flavors are now available in both the 750 ml celebratory size and the 10 oz. Single Serve size. It is distributed nation-wide in upscale specialty food, natural food stores, and gourmet gift baskets.

IZZE

IZZE Beverage Company will add Lime to its existing seven-flavor line. Sparkling Lime will hit retail stores this Spring in IZZE’s signature 12 oz. glass bottle

Fizzy Lizzy

Fizzy Lizzy recently 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. The company also adjusted its packaging to more clearly communicate that it is sparkling juice with no added sugars.