Extracting the Profits
Like many food trends and preferences, juice seems to have circled back to its roots, but with a 21st-century twist.
Consumers with an interest in gourmet foods have taken a high-tech route back to basics with butchering, fermenting and now juicing. They may grow fruits and vegetables themselves or browse specialty and natural foods stores for locally sourced items, but they enjoy the convenience and coolness factor of juicing machines and accessories that help them turn fresh, raw produce into a healthy, refreshing beverage.
Away from home, all-natural and premium juices are already big business, with $5 billion in revenue this year, according to financial magazine Barron's. High-end juice bars have popped up in cities around the country, and fruit-smoothie chains like Jamba Juice have added more pure, premium, fresh-squeezed or pressed juices to their menus. You know it's a trend when coffee icon Starbucks acquired juice brand and retailer Evolution Fresh in 2011 with the intent of approaching juice the same way that it reinvented coffee. As Starbucks CEO Howard Schulz told CNBC, "Customers want to eat healthier but are having a harder time getting the information they need. We will create a national retail brand around juice and wellness. Juice will be the hero."
Belly up to the Juice Bar
In addition to beverage chains and restaurants, retailers also have gotten in on premium juices. Many specialty food stores, from independents to national chains like Whole Foods Markets, have added in-store juice bars, selling staff-made, fresh-squeezed juices of all kinds.
Willy Street Co-op West in Middleton, Wis., added a juice bar in the back of the store near the deli; its sister store positioned the juice bar near the produce section. Juice bar buyer Ty Clough says that he has noted several trends among juice-bar customers, who appreciate the convenience of ordering a fresh, healthy beverage made just for them in the store. One of those trends is the demand for more vegetable-infused juices.
"People are really going for the green drinks, like those with spinach and kale. When you add kale to fruit smoothies, you can hardly taste it. We're also offering shots of wheatgrass," he reports.
The juice bar at Guido's Fresh Marketplace in Pittsfield, Mass., has become a popular destination among both regular shoppers and those just going there for the juices. "Interest is definitely growing," reports juice bar manager April Bartelli, who notes that people do seem to be drinking their veggies more.
"In our blends, we incorporate mostly vegetables, with bits of apple and pineapple." She likes to use seasonal produce and sources in-house the produce she uses in the juices and smoothies.
Bartelli also has noted the popularity of cleanse diets, which typically include vegetable-based juices along with herbs and spices. "At different times of the year, people do cleanse – like after summer vacations and after the holidays, for certain health reasons," she observes.
At the Willy Street Co-op, Clough, too, says that customers will order certain juices because they report that they are on a cleanse diet.
Plugging in at Home
When it comes to at-home consumption, the trend story line gets a little juicy.
On the one hand, while there are many new products from major manufacturers, sales of some leading and traditional juice products are wobbly. Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst and vice president of The NPD Group Inc., bluntly observes, "Juice is an important part of the American diet, but it's in trouble and dropping, with the exception of carbonated juices," he says.
On the other hand, Balzer says, there is real interest in at-home juicing. "It plays there," he says, noting that at-home juicing reflects other trends in at-home beverage-making equipment, such as high-end coffee and espresso makers and soda machines.
A Hard Sell
As a testament to the growth of customizable, DIY beverages, more consumers are plugging in and turning on home beverage appliances.
Sales of home beverage appliances have reached $2.6 million, reports The NPD Group Inc., fueled in part by interest in single-serve brewing systems and home soda machines.
NPD found that sales of home soda machines (like those produced by SodaStream) rose 147 percent from March 2012 to March 2013, while sales of citrus juicers climbed 55 percent and juice extractors jumped 46 percent. Espresso-maker sales increased 24 percent, and single-serve brewing systems rose 7 percent, leveling off somewhat after consecutive years of strong growth. Sales of tea-makers were up slightly, about 3 percent.
The success of home beverage appliances is ultimately linked to effective buy-in from retailers, notes Debra Mednick, executive director and home industry analyst for NPD. She points to the strong popularity of single-cup brewers.
"There are several reasons for the success of single-cup machines, but one important thing is the availability of coffee pods, both in and beyond the store," she explains. "For appliances to be successful, you have to be able to find the consumables. And retailers who are winning in this area have put [appliance and consumable] sections in their stores."
Retailers can also attract shoppers to home beverage appliances and consumables by combining value and customization. "If you go to a coffee store every day and compare it to buying a machine, even with the coffee, you rationalize how you can still save money," Mednick says.
Beverage-making appliances have also survived and expanded beyond the recession because they are viewed as an affordable indulgence. "It's what we call a little luxury," Mednick observes. "Even though some of the appliances can be expensive, the cost of entry is far lower than that for a major appliance. That also helps."
Research from NPD's home appliance area supports the notion that many consumers are interested in at-home juicing. According to a recent NPD study, from March 2012 to March 2013, sales of citrus juicers rose 55 percent, sales of juice extractors increased 46 percent, and sales of blenders had a 33 percent uptick.
|"Blenders, juice extractors, and citrus juicers are profiting from consumers' desire to get healthy, and high-performance blenders are giving the countertop blender segment a boost with considerably higher price points."
– Debra Mednick
NPD Group analyst
"Blenders, juice extractors and citrus juicers are profiting from consumers' desire to get healthy, and high-performance blenders are giving the countertop blender segment a boost with considerably higher price points," observes Debra Mednick, NPD' executive director and home industry analyst. She reports that consumers are buying such equipment online and in brick-and-mortar stores.
Citrus juicers, showing the highest percentage of recent growth by NPD's findings, extract juice from citrus fruits by shredding the inside "flesh." A variety of products fall into this category, from simple wooden or plastic reamers to juice pressers and squeezers to stand-up juicing funnels, which are inserted into a piece of produce.
In addition to offering manual juicers, gourmet retailers wishing to reach juicing aficionados can choose from an array of automatic juicing machines and blenders.
Centrifugal-force juicers and extractors generally have a flat cutting blade and large feed chute and can be used on harder produce items like apples and carrots. They are run at high rpm to shred the produce and collect the resulting juices. Versatile masticating juicers, which use a single auger to crush products into smaller pieces to squeeze out juice while preserving more nutrients, can also be used for functions like chopping and grating.
Triturating juice extractors, also known as slow juicers, are masticating juicers with two gears instead of one to maximize the amount of juice extracted at a slow speed. These work well with thinner leafy greens and wheatgrass.
From March 2012 to March 2013, sales of citrus juicers rose 55 percent, sales of juice extractors increased 46 percent, and sales of blenders had a 33 percent uptick.
Source: NPD Group
Many at-home cooks can also whip up premium beverages in blenders. Blenders can be used to make smoothies and juices out of whole fruits and vegetables, with the addition of liquids like water, yogurt, juice or milk.
Stores that specialize in gourmet cooking equipment carry a variety of juicers, extractors, blenders and related tools at different price points, to meet customers' interest and budgets. Sur La Table, for example, offers everything from a $4.95 citrus reamer to a $299 Breville Juice Fountain Elite, with a variety of other options in between. Juicing accessories are part of Sur La Table's inventory as well, such as peelers, corers, slicers and hullers for the prep process in handling fruit and vegetables to be blended or extracted.
Likewise, Williams-Sonoma devoted two pages of its most recent catalog to juicers, ranging from citrus presses to a function-specific wheatgrass juicer to a high-powered, commercial-style Breville Juice Fountain Duo with two interchangeable discs that retails for $600.
Independent retailers who carry culinary items and gourmet food also are focusing on juicers and juicing accessories. At Orange Tree Imports in Madison, Wis., co-owner Dean Schroeder says that juicers have waxed and waned in popularity since his store opened 35 years ago.
Reviewing juicing trends of the past 20 years, he reports, "It perks along on its own, and every now and then you get a spike, because people are talking about juicing." He says that sales of juicers in the $99 and $149 categories have been strong lately, as have some other juice products, such as electric reamers and a newer citrus-beverage-infuser bottle, with a built-in cone that adds fruit flavor to water.
At The Cook's Warehouse four locations in the greater Atlanta area, juicers and blenders are adding juicy profits to the bottom line. "Currently juicers and blenders are in our top categories in terms of increased sales," says Mary Moore, founder and CEO. "As of July 1, The Cook's Warehouse had already surpassed our Vitamix business from the entire previous year. Our juice extractor business has doubled year to date and shows no signs of slowing down."
Overall, Moore has watched the juicing and blending trend expand into the mainstream. "The increase in this category has been exponential in the past couple of years beginning with a slower increase five years ago," explains Moore. "It is becoming very mainstream and certainly a hot trend today."
To help educate educate its clientele and drive sales, The Cook's Warehouse offers cooking classes and free demonstrations on all health-driven, lifestyle categories. "These are becoming ever more popular," notes Moore. "Vitamix has developed a specific program for classes with gourmet stores and those also have been successful for us thus far."
Manufacturers of juice-making machines and tools are developing new products to keep up with demand. Omega Juicers recently introduced a new VRT400 low-speed squeezing juicer, which has a vertical design and a masticating style as well as a juice tap for easier cleaning. Hurom LS has re-engineered its slow juicer to extract juice and make smoothies while preserving nutrients and enzymes; it also features a juice cap and a pulp-control lever.
Specialty food markets with in-store juice bars featuring industrial-type juicers report that customers often ask how to make juices at home, using juicing equipment designed for use in their own kitchens.
"People are always asking about juicers to buy, and I tell them that the ones that grind products work well. Personally, I think grinding of the juice is better, because it's pulpier," says Willy Street's Clough.
Guido's Fresh Marketplace's Bartelli refers customers who ask about juicing machines and tools to a gourmet shop in town (while also pointing out how convenient it is to buy juice drinks made in the store).
To cover both bases, gourmet stores and specialty food markets also offer juicing classes to show customers how to make and enjoy premium juices. Sur La Table gives classes on how to use and maintain juicers and how to create different recipes. While not all Whole Foods Market stores sell juicing equipment, many offer periodic juicing classes with juicing experts and chefs who provide tips on choosing produce, making various juice blends and using juicing machines and tools. And, in addition to its in-store juice bar, Guido's Fresh Marketplace has featured juicing tips on its store blog.
Juicing demos also attract interest in juicing tools and equipment, as well as produce used for juices. At Georgetown Market in Indianapolis, regular demos have helped spur sales of the store's inventory of juicers, according to owner Rick Montieth. Regular demonstrations on juicing have helped increase Georgetown's Omega juicer sales 12-fold.
|Regular demonstrations on juicing have helped increase Georgetown's Omega juicer sales 12-fold. Juices from the grocer's juice bar are among its best sellers.|
The current health-driven interest in high-quality fruit and vegetable juices provides gourmet retailers with a trifecta of sales opportunities: premium juices made onsite, juicers and related accessories, and quality ingredients for making the juice itself.
Omega continues to create new products, new uses and new opportunities. In 2009, Omega was the first to develop the vertical-masticating juicer. Today, Omega is on its fourth generation of vertical-masticating juicers and fifth generation of horizontal-masticating juicers. In 2013, the company introduced two new styles of vertical low-speed units (VRT370, VRT400) and two new styles of horizontal-masticating units (8007, NC800).
Additionally, at the 2013 International Home + Housewares Show, Omega was presented with NPD's Fastest-Growing Juice Extractor Brand in 2012. Look to Omega as a leader in juicer innovation and a trusted brand among consumers. Omega's product development standards and dedication to uncompromising quality have stood the test of time.
Fagor Slow Juicer Platino
It's no secret that adding fresh fruits and vegetables to your daily diet creates an excellent health regime, helping you to live a healthier, stronger and more vibrant life. Slow juicing gently and precisely squeezes the maximum amount of juice from fruits, vegetables and leafy greens, preserving more of the natural vitamins and antioxidants for a more nutritious drink. Fresh juice from a slow juicer is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, purified water, proteins, carbohydrates and chlorophyll, which the body needs to absorb on a daily basis for peak performance. One glass of fresh juice from a slow juicer, and you'll experience first-hand the difference between store-bought juice and fresh, healthy goodness.
Slow juicers are extremely efficient and easy and quieter than their predecessors. The Platino's two-step process extracts the juice from the fruit or vegetable twice before it enters your glass. The auger, the main component of the unit, precisely squeezes the food without shredding or grinding it, putting more juice into your glass.
The Platino operates on standard 110 voltage. It features a juice collector to catch the juice, a pulp collector to collect the pulp and a brush for thorough and easy cleaning. The Fagor Platino comes with a user's manual and a full-color recipe booklet. SRP: $199. Fagor offers a full line of pressure cookers, cookware and small electrics.