Functional smoothies booming in Britain

Brits are slugging back fruit smoothies in greater volume than ever before, and rapid market expansion continues with product innovations such as one-litre cartons from market leader Innocent attracting a new demographic — families — in a sector previously dominated by 250ml single-serve bottles predominantly purchased by city-dwelling teens and under-35s.

But functional varieties are the "true shining star" according to market analyst Mintel, which noted that while regular juice varieties captured 80 per cent of the market, functional smoothies with ingredients such as ginseng, echinacea and other natural products notched the fastest growth rates — a staggering 2,350% between 2001 and 2006 — and achieved sales of $30 million last year.

Mintel valued the smoothie market at $265 million in 2006 and predicts volumes will nearly triple from 2006's 34 million litres to 100 million litres in 2011. Only 6.3 million litres were sold in 2001. New players in the sector such as private-label supermarket chains and other brands would precipitate a price drop for products that commonly retail at more than $4 for a 250ml bottle.

"Smoothies have been the true drinks success story of the 21st century and are clearly no longer a niche market," said Mintel analyst Vivianne Ihekweazu. "Healthy eating, and in particular the 5-a-day fruit and vegetable campaign, has been the driving force behind continuing rates of exceptional growth. With UK consumers becoming increasingly health-conscious and in light of growing concerns about obesity in adults and children, the smoothie market is set to see significant future growth."

Fruit smoothies, including those made on-site in the UK's increasing number of juice bars, continued to outperform their dairy cousins.

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