Trends 2007

Smoothie operators lead UK health binge

By Chris Mercer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Juice Mintel

Smoothies are set to be the high street success story for the UK
soft drinks industry over the next few years, figures suggest,
harnessing a growing trend for healthy fast food.

Do you know your Pineapple Pleasure from your Berry Blast? Ever tried a Blue Velvet or an Orange Cloud? The names would not look out of place in most cocktail bars, but now they have been brought to the high street by Britain's fruit smoothie boom.

Britons sank 34m litres of smoothies in 2006, compared to just 6.3m in 2001, and consumption is set to almost treble again over the next five years, according to new figures from market research group, Mintel​.

It believes smoothies have risen from their niche status to become the first drinks success story of the 21st Century, opening up new opportunities for manufacturers and retailers.

Smoothie bars have sprung up as part of a move to provide consumers with healthy fast food. They also provide a morning pick-me-up for the UK's 'work hard play hard' generation - those under 34 are most likely to head down the smoothie bar, Mintel says.

"Healthy eating, and in particular the 5-a-day fruit and vegetable campaign, has been the driving force behind continual rates of exceptional growth,"​ said Vivianne Ihekweazu, senior market analyst at Mintel.

"There is a massive consumer request for healthy alternatives on the high street at the moment,"​ Chris Connon, marketing manager for Crussh Juice Bars, told​.

Crussh, already the UK's largest smoothie bar chain, is about to open its 16th store and is estimated to have made sales of around £5m last year.

The firm has grown by targeting London's commuters and says it has built its success on offering healthy snacks and juices alongside its smoothie collection, turning itself into a comprehensive lunch outlet.

The next few years will likely see rivals jostling for position in the sector, perhaps emulating the fierce competition seen among high street coffee chains over the last decade.

One Australian-based firm, Boost Juice Bars, is set to enter the UK later this year. Existing smoothie bars also face a challenge from established coffee and lunch chains, which have begun adding to smoothies on their menus.

Greater competition will lead to lower prices, Mintel said, predicting that while smoothie sales volumes will almost treble up to 2011, value sales will rise by a more modest 76 per cent.

"It is healthy to have competition. It keeps us on our toes and helps to generate awareness of juices and healthy alternatives,"​ said Crussh's Connon.

Crussh has attempted to distinguish itself by emphasising its use of natural ingredients, including unpasteurised fruit, and addressing ethical concerns with some organic produce and Fairtrade coffee.

The group also allows consumers to add 'booster' ingredients for an extra 50 pence, which include Vitamin C, Aloe Vera, ginseng, ginger and even bee pollen.

Functional smoothies containing ingredients like these may help to hold up value in the market, and have been dubbed the "shining star"​ of the smoothie movement by Mintel. They only make up 11 per cent of the sector's value but have shot up by more than 2,000 per cent since 2001.

Success in this area is as much about fashion as technique, according to Connon. "You need to be at the forefront of the latest trends. We are always looking for the next big thing."

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