Pub-group buyers all agree that high-quality fresh juice is where the real opportunity lies for soft drinks.
Jonathon Paveley, Punch commercial director, says: "I would say 98% of the market opportunity for soft drinks in pubs is to upgrade the quality
of juice product a licensee is offering.
"People treat themselves when they go to the pub, but they still want a healthy alternative that contains only natural products."
He believes the problem with juice drinks such as J2O is that it won't be long before people start reading the label and questioning how much juice they contain.
"Consumers want 100%, not from concentrate, juices that aren't highly pasteurised - they want
to know they are getting pure, fresh juice and nothing else."
Suppliers pushing pure juices
Punch has stocked Tropicana's on-trade 275ml Pure Premium range for five months now, which according to Paveley, has been selling very well. The juices, launched last November, come in Smooth and Original varietals and contain 100% pure squeezed juice, not from concentrate.
Not wanting to miss out, Hartridges and Britvic were quick to push their pure juice versions into the mix, both in 275ml glass bottles. According to category director Andrew Marsden, Britvic's products were introduced in response to both consumer demand for a healthier offer, but also requests from licensees for easier-to-serve juices. He says: "The traditional way of serving juices from tetra packs is simply not suitable for the on-trade. They are messy, unprofessional and generally a bit dodgy. Both our new products come in glass bottles, which gives a premium image in the pub trade, and they also feature wide mouths and 'pop caps' which sets them apart from their competitors."
Squeezed and Pressed
Fuller's has listed Britvic's versions, Squeezed and Pressed, for a couple of months now. Food and beverage buyer Andy Hall says: "Squeezed is doing much better in the rural area than in the cities as for many of the rural pubs it's the first time they've had such a fresh juice. Our city pubs have had fresh orange for a while now because of their cocktail menus."
Hall says the recently-acquired Gales pubs have sold Squeezed especially well as they have a more family-orientated customer base. Parents clearly like the idea of it being a pure product for both themselves and their children.
Problem of small serves
Nevertheless, before pure juices really kick off, many argue that consumers need to first overcome the barrier of the old-fashioned 125ml mixer servings and realise that the new juices are a completely different product. Martin Hartridge, MD of Hartridges, says: "I do believe fresh, not-from-concentrate juices will come back into vogue. What has not helped the orange juice market in the past, however, is the tiny mixer servings of juice, which really put people off.
"People drink with their eyes, so suppliers
need to upsize to at least 200ml in all soft drink servings, whether it's designed as a mixer or
to be drunk on its own."
Another barrier with juices is the calorie content, Punch's Paveley adds. "The ideal product would be a 100% juice, which also has a lower calorie count," he says. "That would be very popular." And he challenges suppliers to fill the gap. "I'm sure someone could come up with a good way of doing it," he says.