Pomegranate juice victim of its own success

Booming demand for leading superfruit juice, pomegranate, is creating a supply shortfall that may take years to redress if the market continues to grow exponentially, as many experts predict it will.

The world leader in pomegranate juice, California-based Pom Wonderful, saw US sales fall from $84.5 million in 2005 to $71.2 million in 2006 at retail outlets other than Wal-Mart, according to market analyst IRI — a 15 per cent drop-off.

A Pom Wonderful spokesperson said the situation was a direct result of limited acreage of the Wonderful variety of pomegranate trees — the only variety Pom Wonderful uses in its juices and teas that sell in the US, Canada and the UK. Pom Wonderful has significantly increased acreage but it will be 1-2 years before these new orchards bear fruit. Pom Wonderful only sources from Wonderful pomegranate trees because of the volume of scientific research highlighting its predominantly high-antioxidant-related health benefits.

"Demand has been so high we have run out of pomegranate juice," she told FF&N. "We have been forced to ration the product, and we made that decision so we wouldn't have to buy any foreign concentrates. We have new crops coming on board and we are increasing the allocation, so you'll start seeing shelf space increasing in the next year or two." She said with demand still increasing it was difficult to predict when supply might meet demand again.

"It's obviously not ideal to be in this position, but it is a reflection of the rapid growth we have experienced for our product. It's a vital part of our business that we have that control over supply. We don't supply pomegranate juice to any other manufacturers," she said.

Until supply became more abundant, she said, Pom Wonderful planned no new product launches although it would continue to sell fresh, whole pomegranates during the October-January annual harvest.

Blake Ebersol, marketing manager at Geni Herbs, which markets a clinically backed pomegranate ingredient called Pomella, said full vertical integration meant the Indiana-based botanicals supplier had not encountered supply issues because it had bought farms and increased acreage in anticipation of a pomegranate boom in not only beverages but liquid and pill-form supplements, as well as cosmetic products.

Other superfruits such as wild blueberries and a?ai have also experienced supply challenges, with these industries increasing crop acreage in the case of blueberries and processing capability for Amazon-derived a?ai berries.

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