Refrigerated juice is squeezing the pulp out of frozen juice sales, but supermarket chains aren't leaving the concentrates out in the cold.
Retailers are pouring steady ad support into their frozen juice sections as well as cross-merchandising, adding popular new blended and enriched varieties, broadening private label and spotlighting price specials with signs and end displays.
"We try to build excitement around it and are constantly doing some type of advertising," said the frozens buyer at a big Southeastern chain. Frozen juice -- chiefly orange juice -- is advertised at least twice a month, and signs and shelf tags are used to grab
shoppers' attention, she added.
End bunkers also plug discounted products and showcase tie-in items intended to form a meal. "Usually I'll go with a blend or an apple juice before an orange juice if I'm doing a meal. If I'm doing a breakfast, I'll go with an orange juice," she said.
Supermarkets supplied by the Portland, Ore., division of Fleming Cos., Oklahoma City, often pitch different frozen juices together, said Brian Kempster, frozens and dairy category adviser. "We do a lot of tie-ins within the juice category as far as promoting, maybe, an orange and a grape juice together or an orange and an apple juice and doing a mix that way," he explained.
"It brings additional users to the category; it gives them another reason to come over to the case."
Brookshire Bros., Lufkin, Texas, helps pull eyes to the frozen juices with shelf talkers that highlight price cuts, according to frozens buyer Mark Duke. "Probably every two or three weeks we have some kind of frozen juice in our ad," he said.
Some cross-merchandising is done via endcaps. "We might tie in frozen bagels or some breakfast-type items," Duke said. Retailers and wholesalers said price is the key to moving frozen juice, which generally costs less than refrigerated juice.
"If I can get my frozen orange juice below $1 retail, then its sales will increase," said the buyer from the Southeastern chain. Fleming's Kempster said stores in his trade area sell more frozen than chilled juice. "Refrigerated is a lot smaller portion of the juice category. Out here, not as many people are willing to pay the premium that the refrigerated demands," he explained.
The importance of pricing in frozen juice has fed private-label growth. An SN study this year found that a greater percentage of shoppers are buying more private-label frozen juice compared with a year ago.
"We do very well in private-label frozen juice and are expanding it," said J. Thomas Outlaw Jr., vice president and frozens director at Ingles Markets, Black Mountain, N.C. "We have a 12-ounce Laura Lynn orange juice as well as a 6-ounce. We're adding a 12-ounce calcium-added, country-style product. We also are adding a pink lemonade."
Roundy's Ohio division, based in Lima, Ohio, also has bolstered its Roundy's-brand frozen juice offerings. "We had O.J., grape juice and apple juice, and we've added a frozen cranberry juice and grapefruit juice, which has expanded the juice section," said Marty Wagner, head buyer.
The Red & White private label is the best-selling frozen juice at Autry Greer & Sons, Prichard, Ala., noted Bill Adcox, grocery and frozens buyer. "It works for us because we can ship the private label with the chilled in a split truck," he said.
Brookshire Bros. has consolidated its private-label frozen juice. "We discontinued Better Value and moved space over to Hy-Top," Duke said.
However, the frozens buyer at a Mid-Atlantic chain said manufacturers are funneling more ad dollars to refrigerated juice, which gets a better dollar ring while still offering a competitive price vs. the frozen.
"I don't think the frozen is really any cheaper," he said. "We have so much ad activity going on with the chilled that the consumer can probably find a better value with the chilled more often than with the frozen."
And sales reflect that situation, retailers and wholesalers said. "They've been eroding [in sales] for several years," Autry Greer's Adcox said, adding that "there's no question" refrigerated juice has siphoned sales from the frozen article. "I think it's because of the convenience and the taste," he explained. "They've improved the chilled juices; they have premiums, fresh-squeezed -- you name it."
At H.G. Hill Stores, Nashville, Tenn., frozen juice movement has been flat to down while refrigerated juice sales are "way up," said Bryan Ryckeley, grocery and frozens buyer. "With all the [discounts] we've been doing on the chilled, even though the concentrate is a little less expensive, I don't think the difference is enough for the consumer to go over there and buy [frozen juice]."
But frozen concentrate has its pluses, noted Bill Drumm, director of grocery, frozens and dairy at G&R Felpausch Co., Hastings, Mich. "Usually, the price point is good, it tastes good and you can stock it up," he said, adding that the amount of space given to frozen juice has stayed the same. "We realize that it's still a pretty important part of our business."
Despite frozen juice's slack sales, stores have only tweaked their space for the category.
"There have been enough items introduced to weed out the slowest items and replace them with new ones with couponing activity and consumer deals," H.G. Hill's Ryckeley said. "We picked up a Musselman's apple juice this year that we hadn't carried before. But mainly it's been Welch's blended juices; they've had the most new items coming out recently. All the white grape and [regular] grape juices seem to be doing real well."
Fleming's Kempster also has seen vibrant activity with the frozen blends. "We're seeing a lot of new products. Welch's is coming out with new grape blends, and that's generating some new excitement in the category," he said. "We've gotten into the calcium-fortified orange juices in our private labels [True Value and IGA], which has expanded the section."
The buyer from the Southeastern chain said space for frozen juice has been reorganized. "We're not keeping as much inventory at store level. We're dividing rows instead of having full rows in cases."
Frozen juice has more variety than chilled juice, Fleming's Kempster said. "There's a greater selection in the frozen than in the dairy category. The shelf life in the chilled section makes it less conducive to having slower-moving items."
To make frozen juice more visible, the Southeastern chain installed gravity-fed racks in glass-door cases. "We're testing that in a couple of stores for the frozen juice. I've tried several different types of sets and am monitoring [their effect]," the frozens buyer said.