“Probiotic juice is one of the biggest untapped opportunities in the healthy beverage business worldwide,” says food and beverage industry expert Julian Mellentin1, author of Probiotic Juice: Five Key Strategy Lessons from Europe and the US2.
“The announcement today that Danone is taking a 51% stake in the ProViva probiotic digestive health brand and has secured a 10-year global licence agreement with the inventors underscores that Danone sees massive potential in probiotic fruit and vegetable juices,” continues Mellentin, whose report gives a detailed case study of the rise and rise of the ProViva brand and the science behind it. Mellentin has been tracking the brand since 1998 and the report is based on interviews with senior executives and scientists connected with the brand.
ProViva was the world’s first probiotic fruit drink for digestive health and it is still the biggest. Danone is the world’s largest dairy company and is the acknowledged leader in products for health and wellness. Its Activia yoghurt is the biggest digestive health yoghurt brand in the world.
“It is likely that this move is connected to Danone’s recent announcement of a global joint venture with Chiquita, one of the world’s biggest fruit companies,” says Mellentin. “It makes sense that Danone should partner with someone who has access to fruits from around the world and expertise in the area. Danone’s expertise lies primarily in dairy.”
“This development also makes sense because fruit is the future of food and health,” says Mellentin. “To the average person, fruit equals “healthy”, and it is this consumer perspective that has driven sales of fruits such as blueberries and pomegranate, as well as fruit smoothies, in recent years.”
ProViva, launched in Sweden in 1994 by Swedish dairy group Skånemejerier, has grown to become one of the world’s most successful innovations in juice drinks. “With annual retail sales of more than $50 million (€38 million/£32 million) a year, and still growing at around 8% per annum, ProViva is one of the most successful innovations of the last 20 years,” says Mellentin.
“The fact that it has achieved this despite selling at a 50% premium to regular juices is a testament to the effectiveness of the active ingredient and the importance to consumers of the “feel the benefit” promise of digestive health products,” he adds.
Sweden has a population of just nine million people. If ProViva’s sales in Sweden are pro rated to a country such as the United States with a population of 300 million, it would be a $1.5 billion (€1.15 billion/£1 billion) annual sales brand.
ProViva has been extended into a range of other variants such as probiotic sports drinks, a women-specific brand called ProViva Female, and a daily dose “shot” format.
“ProViva’s active ingredient is Lactobacillus plantarum 299v, developed by Swedish science company ProbiAB. It is one of the world’s most researched probiotic bacteria for its digestive health benefits. It is important to note that ProViva became very popular in Sweden with minimal advertising simply because the bacteria provides a benefit you can feel, and the news that it actually worked got round by word-of-mouth,” says Mellentin.
“It is significant that the companies have agreed to cooperate on petitioning for health claims,” says Mellentin. “The EU’s new and extremely strict health claim regulation should actually work in ProViva and Danone’s favour, since the digestive health benefits of ProViva are substantiated by a large body of peer-reviewed clinical studies – as the EU requires health claims to be these days – and there are very few products that can boast such a body of science behind them.”