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UK supermarket targets natural soft drinks trend

By Chris Mercer , 24-Apr-2007

Britain's third largest supermarket is to remove artificial flavours and colours, as well as the aspartame sweetener, from its private label soft drinks.

Sainsbury's announced new drinks formulas would be on shelves from June, in a new sign that demand for natural ingredients is entering the mainstream soft drinks sector. Its move could open up more opportunities for makers of natural ingredients and preservatives if other major retailers and producers look to follow suit. Sainsbury's, which has undergone a revival in fortunes over the last couple of years, said it would look to use natural colours and fruit and vegetable extracts as colouring agents in drinks. Where flavourings are used, these will be from the named fruits and from other natural sources, it said. The group has also ditched artificial sweetener aspartame in favour of Tate & Lyle's Sucralose product. The move reflects growing consumer demand for natural ingredients in soft drinks. "It's the result of extensive research among our customers revealing just how welcome this development would be, especially amongst parents," said Cathy Port, Sainsbury's category manager for soft drinks. Many parents have become concerned about the effects of artificial ingredients on their children. Sally Bunday, founder of the Hyperactive Children's Support Group, welcomed the Sainsbury's reformulation. "We hope that this announcement from Sainsbury's will lead other soft drink manufacturers and supermarkets to follow suit." Natural ingredients are likely to play a greater role in soft drinks formulation over the next few years, Paul Moody, chief executive of Britvic, told BeverageDaily.com at the firm's recent UK soft drinks conference. It is thought a trend towards natural ingredients could also help to reinvigorate the carbonate soft drinks sector, which has suffered from health-conscious consumers moving over to juice and water. "Any brand which could use the positioning claim 'free from artificial flavours, colours and preservatives' would set itself apart and give reassurance to those who have turned a way from carbonates on health grounds," said a recent report on the UK carbonates market by Mintel.

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