Better Juice CEO: “Brands need to re-evaluate strategies as consumers seek healthier beverage products”
17 Aug 2021 --- The decline in juice sales is becoming a global phenomenon as sugar content is increasingly scrutinized in the juice space, according to Eran Blachinsky, founder and CEO of Better Juice, an Israel-based biotechnology company.
“Consumers are seeking new, healthier and innovative products. The key challenge is a clean label without or with fewer sugars, statured fats and additives, but it is not easy to maintain the same texture and taste,” he explains.
Earlier this month, PepsiCo revealed it is slimming down its juice portfolio, having inked a deal to sell Tropicana, Naked and other select juice brands across North America to French private equity firm PAI Partners.
Blachinsky says that new divestments in the juice space are prompting brands to re-evaluate their strategies. “Juice brands realize that they cannot continue and do the same as always as it is not good enough these days. The consumers demand a change and look for new products.”
Knowledge is power
Commenting on what is driving this overall activity in the juice space, Blachinsky says the main driver is public awareness.
“Scientists and physicians are fighting against overconsumption of sugar,” he stresses. “The World Health Organization (WHO) announces statistics and recommendations about sugar overconsumption.”
“Health organizations around the world are using all their weight to reduce sugar consumption. They don’t care if a juice brand will go out of business; they are concerned about public health.”
Efforts to reduce sugar levels are well established and ongoing, reflecting the link to dental caries, as well as the widely held view that high sugar consumption is a causative factor for a range of conditions, including weight gain, diabetes and hyperactivity in children.
Government intervention has become more widespread globally, including the use of sugar taxes and the regulation of advertising targeting children.
Four in ten consumers in Innova’s global Health and Nutrition Survey in 2020 said they decreased their sugar consumption over 12 months.
The engine behind such activity is significantly affected by the media, according to Blachinsky.
“Journalists are those who drive the revolution,” he outlines. “Sugar reduction awareness is growing daily due to the hard work of journalists that are concerned with what they see around them; obesity is roaring, diabetes is increasing due to sugar overconsumption.”
Based on scientific proofs and recommendations from the health organizations, journalists are writing articles to increase awareness, Blachinsky states.
“As a result, the consumers are more and more health-oriented and buy more healthy products and less sugary products. That directly affects the F&B and specifically the juice industry.”
Sugar content in juice comes under scrutiny
Sugar reduction is a key industry topic, and according to Blachinsky, sugar content is coming under fire in the natural juices arena.
“We see juice companies shutting down. We receive so many emails from juice producers seeking a good solution to reduce sugar from juices,” he says.
“Today, this is the last frontier of sugar reduction. The only products without sugar reduction alternatives are natural products like juices. For example, in Australia and New Zealand, Juice Health stars were shifted from five to two. So, yes, juice and its ingredients are under attack from industry,” he warns.
Blachinsky adds that the demand for juice as an ingredient in other products is also declining.
“All over the world, the demand curve is negative,” he continues. “Today, juice producers are seeking ways to keep their brands in the marketplace.”
Spotlight on organoleptic
Consumers are looking for “simple organoleptic properties” such as taste, texture, smell and color, notes Blachinsky.
“The challenge is to succeed in improving the product and still maintain the good organoleptic experience. We have succeeded in overcoming this challenge with our technology. We do not alter smell, color, texture or healthy ingredients. We only reduce the sugars from the juices and keep a delicate sweetness, naturally.”
Most of the juice sugar reduction solutions in the market cannot tick all the boxes, however, flags Blachinsky. “Most of the sugar reduction solutions reduce Brix in the juice. Mouthfeel becomes very watery as well as reducing vitamin content and other ‘goodies’ from the juice.”
“We do it differently. We convert all juice sugars to fibers. And these fibers are good for you,” he elaborates.
In June, the company raised US$8 million in seed round investment for its enzymatic technology that reduces sugar content in fruit juices – a process its creators say this process will fulfill a “significant need” in the better-for-you segment.
What’s next for juice?
Blachinsky believes change is in sight for the once-booming juice category.
“Looking at the beverage shelves on any supermarket, you can see side by side the sugar-rich products and the sugar-free versions. At the juice shelves, you see only one product, the high sugar content product,” he notes.
“In five years from now, the number of juice brands might decline, but most of them will be available with less sugar. Consumers are eager for such a solution, and they will buy the sugar-reduced juice even more,” Blachinsky concludes.
At the start of the year, Better Juice revealed a collaboration with the German-headquartered GEA Group, a key player in process engineering for the food and beverage sectors.
The partnership is part of Better Juice’s strategy to transform the global juice industry by advancing its technology to reduce all sugars in orange juices. The joint venture is expected to push Better Juice’s scale up and expand its global footprint.
By Elizabeth Green
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