According to Frucor Suntory Scientific and Regulatory Affairs Manager Dr Lesley Stevenson, although the most traditional orange juice remains popular and acts as an ‘introduction’ for consumers to juices, there has been an obvious rise in demand for more exotic and unique flavours, particularly within the citrus sector.
“Orange juice is still the flavour that recruits consumers into the [juice] category, there’s no doubt about it, [but] we are definitely seeing a lot of interest in the different ‘partitions’ of citrus fruits as of late,” she told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“Now people want more unique citrus flavours such as blood orange, Valencia orange, tangelo, yuzu, Sicilian lemon, key lime, Tahitian lime and so on – no longer just the most conventional citrus flavours which are orange, lemon and lime.
“Outside of citrus, we have also seen in our Simply Squeezed chilled smoothies range that the most popular flavours are spirulina - clearly not a fruit but likely popular for the health connotations – and feijoa, a green kiwi-like fruit that is very popular in New Zealand and known for its high Vitamin C and fibre content.
“These are the flavours we are seeing come through in terms of consumer demand and interest, and are clear examples of how exotic meets provenance [where] they want these exotic, unique flavours but also to be confident about the origin and safety of the fruits which Frucor Suntory as a longstanding brand can provide.”
When asked about changes in consumer juice-purchasing behaviour after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Dr Stevenson highlighted that the sector has been fortunate to continue seeing high consumer interest.
“Juice in general has been a good sector to be in as it has a high penetration rate with little rejection,” she said.
“Once COVID-19 hit, one difference we did see was a rise in shelf-stable juices as people wanted to make fewer trips to the supermarket, but still enjoy juice benefits without needing to chill these or worry about spoilage.
“Chilled juices are usually more of an impulse purchase and people have been less out and about to make these impulse purchases, but now as things open up, chilled juice is coming back in terms of sales, particularly as many items with functional benefits are in the chilled section and there has been a higher demand for naturally functional juices since COVID-19 hit too.”
Frucor Suntory also owns Just Juice, Fresh Up, The Real McCoy, Allganics and Ribena juice brands in New Zealand, in addition to Pepsi, 7-Up, Mountain Dew, Gatorade, Boss and more beverage brands.
Upcycling and waste reduction
Dr Stevenson also highlighted that New Zealand consumers have strong demands in terms of sustainability from brands, which has driven the firm to make many waste reduction improvements at its Hawke’s Bay production site.
“The largest waste stream we have is that of solid remains, e.g. pumice, seeds, peel and oils that remain after juice pressing – this makes up about half the total waste at our Hawke’s Bay production site,” she said.
“So since Oct 2019, we have been working to find alternative viable opportunities to onsell any of these viable byproducts and have identified a few, e.g. Valencia oil, aromatic components to make Valencia extract, freeze dried peel, orange fibres, orange thickener, orange smoothie puree bases – there’s really whole kit of raw materials from these byproducts that can be used.
“Currently, one major opportunity we’re in discussion with the alcoholic arm of Suntory about is to use our freeze-dried lemon peel in the Suntory alcoholic beverages – this would provide the same quality as frozen peel but with better shelf life.
“In the meantime, the next phase of this project is looking at the feasibility of extracting more ingredients from the byproducts, whilst also assessing the market demand and opportunities to commercialise these.”