The initiative comes about in response to the pressures of having to comply with EU standards for safety and hygiene. Slovakia is due to become a part of an enlarged EU on 1 May - a date that will bring the sector a growing number of trade opportunities which in turn are expected to bring increasing demands on quality.
In total eleven fruit juice producers and distributors operating in Slovakia have signed the agreement to implement the scheme. The companies have all pledged to harmonize the quality of their products in line with the standards of the European Fruit Juice Association (AIJN) for apple, orange, and grapefruit juices.
The companies had to introduce this measure as the Slovak food codex does not deal with European juice quality standards, according to Elena Jablonicka of the Slovak Association of Soft Drinks and Mineral Waters Producers.
Overall the Slovak soft drinks market grew by 5 per cent in 2003, however EU accession is expected to increase sales on the back of an influx of tourism as well as export opportunities. Currently the fruit juice segment comes in as the third largest, with carbonated drinks and bottled water taking significantly larger chunks of the total sales.
Fruit juice is generally regarded as a premium beverage and because of this quality is a major issue. On the whole fruit juice manufacturers invest proportionally large amounts on the quality process because procedures such as sterilization, purification and filtration are more complicated than the production processes involved with other soft drinks.