Summer of discontent: Fruit drinks battle it out for consumers’ wallet

New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) A cool battle is raging under the hot summer sun here in India. And it’s not just the ‘cola war’ between global rivals Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, but a bigger battle involving many more domestic players entering the Indian beverages market.

Every summer, sale of non-alcoholic beverages shoot up and big companies compete hard to grab a greater share of the consumers’ wallet. Now a host of home-grown companies too have joined the fray, including brands such as Frooti, Appy, Paperboat, Real (Dabur), B Natural, Jumpin and MangoSip among others.

Preferences of the people have shifted more towards the ‘functionality’ or nutrients in the beverages, according to Neeraj Kakkar, co-founder and chief executive of Paperboat.

Health consciousness is increasing among the Indian consumers which in turn is driving the demand for functional drinks like packaged juices. As against this, carbonated drinks do not contain any vitamin or mineral.

“The broader shift is from non-functional beverages to functional beverages. People expect more than just taste and thirst-quenching functions from the drinks they consume,” Kakkar told IANS.

“The rushed and hectic lifestyle that urban Indians are leading today has led to a demand for convenient breakfast and snacking solutions like packaged fruit juices,” Sanjay Singal, marketing head-food, Dabur India, told IANS.

“Consumers are increasingly looking at wholesome solutions like packaged juices that provide the required nutrition all through the day,” he added.

Popular across all age-groups, packaged juices have wooed Indian consumers because of more flavours, including those of traditional fruits.

“Packaged juice is a $90-million category in India. Fruit and vegetable drinks constitute five-sixth of the category, the balance being juices and nectars,” Nielsen India senior vice-president Vijay Udasi told IANS.

“The latter is growing at a healthy 23 percent as of April 2016 which is nearly double the rate of the packaged juices category,” he added.

The exclusion of preservatives adds value to the health quotient of these packed juices. The producers are more concerned about using natural ingredients for the beverages, ultimately leading to their higher pricing.

“Packaged fruit juices are priced higher than the aerated beverages purely for the fact that these contain real fruits and do not have any preservative,” said Singal.

Packaged fruit juices and aerated drinks can never compete, since both the segments address two completely different consumer needs, Singal added.

However, packaged juices may face competition from fresh fruit juices which are available at cheaper rates. Perhaps the way forward for the producers of packaged juices is to raise consumer awareness on the hygienic quality of their product compared to the fresh fruit juices sold by the roadside vendors.

(Porisma Pompi Gogoi can be reached at porisma.g@ians.in)

–IANS

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