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Super Juices, Super Profits

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If you had asked someone what an acai berry or mangosteen was five years ago, all you’d get would be a furrowed brow, and perhaps some choice words (“a what berry!?”) These days, of course, many consumers know that these are antioxidant-rich “superfruits”, and that the best place to find them is in bottled smoothies and juices from companies like Naked Juice, Odwalla, Sambazon and others.

odwalla_small.jpgA new report from the Beverage Marketing Group shows that these drinks are fast becoming the stars of the beverage aisle. Sales crossed the half billion-dollar mark in 2006, and last year the category grew by 13% with an additional $75.2 million.

The report points out that dollar sales have grown at a higher rate than volume, indicating the influence of premium pricing. At the D’Agostinos next door to the office here, I’ve noticed that these juices run anywhere from $3 to $7. Those seem like pretty steep prices for something that’s gone in a dozen gulps. But studies have shown that the fresh fruits and antioxidants inside have all sorts of protective qualities, and that seems to really be hitting home with health-conscious shoppers. It’ll be worth watching if that interest can weather this down economy.

The price may be premium, but I have to admit: Most of these “superjuices” are pretty tasty. Look for me milling around their booths at the next natural foods trade show.

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