Trend 6

Idealog - - EXPORT GUIDE -

BLENDED, COLD PRESSED, mixol­ogy, hy­brids, fu­sion – th­ese days beverages take as many cues from fash­ion as food does. And blended drinks are among some of the fastest grow­ing bev­er­age seg­ments in North Amer­ica.

Far from be­ing a fad, juice and smoothie trends seem to be a nat­u­ral out­come of an in­creas­ingly ed­u­cated and health con­scious con­sumer base. And big busi­ness is tak­ing no­tice. Pep­siCo and Coca-Cola have both in­vested in juice, but with care not to di­lute the ‘nat­u­ral’ brand, says Peta Conn, NZTE trade com­mis­sioner and con­sul gen­eral in New York. “The idea of a big cor­po­ra­tion buy­ing a smaller one doesn’t sound that out of the norm – but un­til this point, nei­ther Coke nor Pepsi were in­volved in the juice cat­e­gory, mak­ing a move into this industry a big deal.”

Pop­u­lar US smoothie chain Jamba juice is of­fer­ing a range of juices made with high pres­sure pas­teur­iza­tion (HPP) juices – a method pop­u­lar for caus­ing min­i­mal changes to the fresh­ness of food, un­like pas­teur­iz­ing with heat. And now with the emer­gence of smoothie bowls – smooth­ies packed with nu­tri­ents, thick enough to eat with a spoon, and usu­ally topped with fruit or ce­real – the healthy/blended trend is poised to kick off in a whole new di­rec­tion.

Con­sid­er­ing the world bev­er­age mar­ket is pre­dicted by Com­pa­nies and mar­kets to reach $1.3 tril­lion in sales by 2017, and in the US alone the cold pressed juice mar­ket grew 479% in the year to May 2015, as re­ported by industry re­search firm IRI – it’s not hard to see why busi­nesses – big and small – want to cash in on it.

Conn warns, how­ever, that the mar­ket’s at­trac­tive­ness presents its own chal­lenges. “It’s a hugely dif­fi­cult and crowded mar­ket,” she says. “New Zealand needs to find a unique play here that can make them stand out, [be­cause they’re] not go­ing to com­pete on a price an­gle.”

And therein lies the rub. Kiwi fruit and veg­gies don’t oc­cupy a price- con­scious space (in the US mar­ket, at least), which makes com­pe­ti­tion dif­fi­cult. So too, does the short shelf life of a per­ish­able prod­uct (around 4570 days at the out­side), which ac­cu­mu­lates food miles in ship­ment to a mar­ket that is in­creas­ingly aware of sus­tain­abil­ity and loyal to lo­cally grown and pro­duced food.

So, Conn says, New Zealand bev­er­age mak­ers might do best fo­cussing on op­por­tu­ni­ties where New Zealand has some­thing unique to of­fer.

For ex­am­ple, Kura Nu­tri­tion is one Kiwi com­pany tak­ing this tack, ex­ploit­ing the sweet spot be­tween health and blended bev­er­age, with its pro­tein and pro­bi­otic-packed nu­tri­ent-rich smoothie pow­der.

In Ja­pan, Char­lies has found suc­cess with its Quenchers juice range. The home­grown juice brand, which was snapped up by bev­er­age gi­ant Asahi in 2011, launched Quenchers us­ing its New Zealand prove­nance and QR code tech­nol­ogy to forge its own niche in that coun­try.

When it comes to mixol­ogy, an­other type of blended bev­er­age al­to­gether, high- end mix­ers and small batch or sea­son­ally flavoured al­co­hol in­fu­sions are also find­ing a grow­ing mar­ket. A re­cent story in the bev­er­age trade mag­a­zine Bevnet noted health and well­ness trends con­verg­ing with a “sus­tained de­mand” for premium al­co­hol. That’s seen US com­pa­nies cre­at­ing new twists on old clas­sics, like the small batch Sriracha Bloody Mary, or tea-based cock­tail mixes.

Mean­while, fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of -are Stolen Rum – the Auck­land-based com­pany which raised $4 mil­lion in in­vest­ment cap­i­tal in 2013 to fund its in­ter­na­tional ex­pan­sion – and The New Zealand Whisky Com­pany, both of which have won ac­co­lades from a num­ber of in­ter­na­tional quar­ters for their Kiwi take on spir­its. Even ki­wifruit mar­keter Ze­spri dipped its toes in the pool, pitch­ing ki­wifruit to Amer­i­can drinks blog­gers as a cock­tail in­gre­di­ent. And keep your eye on Rooty Moot – a premium pink gin­ger beer brand soon to launch and hon­ing in on the mixol­o­gist mar­ket in China.

Given the dif­fi­culty of this end of the mar­ket, NZTE’s Peta Conn has some ad­vice for bud­ding Kiwi drink mak­ers: “Visit the mar­ket – fre­quently,” she says. “Have some­one here on the ground who un­der­stands not only this mar­ket and how it works, but who also un­der­stands your prod­uct.”

Start with small re­tail­ers to make room to work out the kinks and gain trac­tion be­fore hit­ting larger ones, she says. And bud­get for reg­u­lar pro­mo­tions.

Equally im­por­tant is test­ing the brand, prod­uct, pric­ing and pack­ag­ing with con­sumers be­fore go­ing to mar­ket. “We can’t em­pha­sise this enough: prac­tice, prac­tice, prac­tice. Re­fine, re­fine, re­fine.”

Con­sid­er­ing the world bev­er­age mar­ket is pre­dicted to reach $1.3 tril­lion in sales by 2017, it is not hard to see why busi­nesses – big and small – want to cash in on it

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