No Innocent interest in niche US smoothie market

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Coffee Soft drink Us

With the US market for fruit-based smoothie drinks expected to undergo continued growth over the coming years, the reported interest of Coca-Cola in UK-based drink group Innocent could seem timely.

However, financial analyst Frost & Sullivan suggests that the smoothie segment remains relatively niche in the US, particularly in regards to interest from rival multinational companies operating in the country.

US interest

Innocent itself, while refusing to comment on any speculation linking itself with a potential share sale, said it was not currently looking to the US for expansion.

With a focus on seemingly healthier beverages by Coca-Cola and its major rivals like PepsiCo, Christopher Shanahan a research analyst for Frost & Sullivan, said that juices and energy drinks remained key to growth in the US market.

Shanahan told that smoothies did not appear to be garnering as much attention from leading drink makers, despite the wellness push in the market.

‘Throwback’ themes

Although there was flat growth in areas like sports drinks, the analyst said that Coca-Cola currently seemed more focused on diversifying its drink offerings to compete with groups like Jones Soda.

This trend, he said, reflected interest for more ‘throwback ‘, traditional soda products with focuses like using ingredients such as sugar cane as a major area for innovation.

The US smoothie market has nonetheless undergone strong growth in recent years, with sales reaching $2bn (€1.4bn) in 2006, an 80 per cent increase compared to the beginning of the decade, said research group Mintel.

Shanahan said that innovation in the smoothie category was ongoing in 2009, with groups like Starbucks releasing their own range of products in the segment. However, Frost & Sullivan believed that any potential consumer buzz for smoothies may have died down slightly

While the analyst claimed that there was a trend of companies looking to provide smoothie extensions to their portfolios, he said these appeared to be mainly at retail level and particularly at fast food outlets or specialist shops.

Innocent intentions

Last week, press reports in the UK claimed that Innocent, which is a leading supplier of smoothie product in Europe, was being pursued by several potential suitors, thought to include Coca-Cola.

A spokesperson for Innocent said that although the company was seeking minority investment to boost it operations in the current marketplace, it did not comment on market speculation.

An Innocent spokesperson told that it did not currently export to the US market and was not considering expansion into the area.

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