The HPP-treated juice sector is growing in the States – Starbucks-owned Evolution Fresh is making gains backed by its store network, Hain Celestial acquired BluePrint in 2012 – since the method allows microbiological treatment of beverages without using heat, and allows brands to charge a premium ($9+ is not unusual) for 'nutrient rich' products.
However, controversy over HPP’s benefits led US consumer Michael Stark to launch a class action against Hain Celestial over its BluePrint brand in late October.
Hain Celestial suffers legal attack
Claims that the fruit and vegetable juices are ‘unpasteurized’ and ‘100% raw’ are false, Stark alleges; leading HPP specialist Avure was quick to defend the technology.
Carole Paula Buyers, senior VP of investor relations and business development, told analysts on an earnings call last Thursday that this year the firm (annual sales $370m+) invested in Suja, a high-pressure, pasteurized juice company based in Southern California.
Boulder Brands Investment Group – an incubator fund owned by shareholders – spent $8.8m on two investments in the juice brand, which uses HPP to produce cold-pressed organic juices and smoothies.
‘A trend we like’ – Boulder Brands
“It's one of the hottest brands within Whole Foods and it's basically, just as close to raw as you can get, but it's high-pressure, pasteurized, rather than being heated. So it keeps the nutrients,” Buyers said.
Stressing that Boulder had only bought a minority stake, Buyers added: “This is our first step and then making a nice investment into a brand and a trend that we like.”
Boulder reported Q3 net sales of $118.5m (up from 101.3m year-on-year), and operating income of $8.4m (versus a loss of $500,000 in Q3 2012) hit by asset write offs.
The consumer packaged goods company’s brands include Smart Balance, Udi’s, Glutino, Earth Balance and Best Life.