European soy-juice market set for take-off

Unilever's foray into the UK chilled soy-juice market will be joined by other introductions from major beverage and dairy players in various European markets by year's end, according to a soy industry expert. Ignace Debruyne, of Belgian-based consultancy Ignace Debruyne & Associates, said the success of products like Spanish dairy Grupo Leche Pascual's Vive Soy juice drink, has proven the soy-juice format is winning favour with consumers.

"Similar things are coming," said Debruyne. "Danone is working on a joint venture with Alpro. Nestlé has a product. Coca-Cola and Pepsi are working on soy applications. Many of the big beverage and dairy companies are — and for good reason. Vive Soy is a huge success in Spain."

The fact Unilever has launched its first brand in 12 years by adapting its Ades soy juice, successful for nearly 20 years in Latin American markets, including an 84 per cent share of the Brazilian soy-beverages market, is testimony to its faith in this sector and desire to establish its new brand in the $3 billion UK juice market.

Launched in April with the strapline, 'Let's stay strong,' AdeZ (pronounced Ah-dez, not aydz) is backed by a $22.4 million multimedia promotional campaign that includes a six-month television advertising run begun in July, print and billboard advertising as well as an interactive website where consumers can have input into packaging design and new flavours.

The vitamin- and mineral-fortified beverage, available in three flavours and retailing at $3.15 for a one-litre carton, does not employ the UK-approved cholesterol-lowering health claim, as its 2.7g of soy per 250ml is too low to meet the claim's requirements.

Other health benefits are flagged on-pack, such as its high calcium content and low calorie count (one third the calories of regular juices).

In adapting the product for the UK, Unilever opted to use soy-protein isolate, unlike its South American counterpart, which uses soy-milk extract, because it said there were fewer taste issues with soy isolate.

"There are some technical issues that need to be solved when blending soy isolates and juice because juice is acidic," Debruyne observed. "But these are being overcome, as can be seen by the soy-juice launches. Obviously, Unilever has done its homework. Unilever is a champion in brands so I expect this product to do very well."

Market analyst Euromonitor valued the western European soy-beverages market (excluding soy milk) at $4.7 million in 2005, up from $1.8 million in 2003.

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