Juice Giants Fortify For Beverage Battle

HOUSTON, Texas—Minute Maid, the number-two orange juice company, owned by Coca-Cola, has launched what it claims is the first national brand of vitamin D-fortified juice in the US.

The launch came just days after Tropicana, the chilled orange juice category leader owned by PepsiCo, announced results of a six-week pilot study of 24 subjects who experienced significant lowering of blood pressure after drinking 16 ounces per day of Tropicana orange juice fortified with functional levels of vitamin C and potassium.

The activity is seen as a sign of the increasing importance both companies are placing on functional foods consumers. In 2001, the chilled orange juice category alone represented $3.1 billion in sales.

"Consumers will increase their consumption as they understand more about nutrition that is not only naturally found in orange juice but also in the ways we can fortify it," said Tropicana spokesperson Kristine Nickel. "Orange juice is an excellent nutrient delivery system that's valued by consumers as a functional food."

An 8oz serving of the new Minute Maid juice provides 25 per cent RDA of Vitamin D and 35 per cent of RDA of calcium—the same amount of both nutrients as in one serving of vitamin D-fortified milk, though Minute Maid nutritionist Donna Shields, RD, says the intent is not to compete directly with milk but rather to bring condition-specific products to market.

"The message is that calcium plus vitamin D equals stronger bones," she said. "Our goal is to provide the broadest range of healthy products across all of the life stages, from kids to older people. Whether that winds up being a multi-fortified product or various products that meet various needs remains to be seen."

In their continued thirst for profits in the functional beverages sector, PepsiCo has acquired Gatorade and SoBe, whilst Coke has swallowed up Odwalla and Fresh Samantha.

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