Although a number of packaged food and beverage categories will be able to benefit from the rise of the cherry as a superfruit, it is the fruit/vegetable juice category which holds the most promise. Fruit juice is widely perceived as being almost as “natural” as the fresh fruit, while having the added advantage of year-round availability. The cherry juice category is only just emerging, with many gaps waiting to be filled.
For instance, it is currently a challenge to find 100% cherry juice on retailer shelves. Cherry juice products, even those consisting of 100% fruit juice, tend to be blended products, ie consisting of a mixture of fruit juices. Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc launched its new Ocean Spray Cherry range in February 2012, with the tagline “Real Cherries. Real Good”. The four new offerings are juice drinks, combining cherry juice with other juices, such as cranberry and orange.
UK-based Cherrygood Ltd, whose range of cherry juices is available from most of the country's major supermarkets, and which makes much of the health and wellness benefits of cherry juice in its marketing, launched Cherrygood Premium Cherry in January 2012. The product is promoted as possessing “a higher antioxidant content than any other leading chilled juice”, devoid of additives, preservatives, sugar and 100% natural. However, its cherry juice content is just 40%, with the rest consisting of apple juice.
Even Voelkel, a German beverage company specialising in high-quality natural and organic juices, only offers cherry juice as a combination product of apple and cherry juice.
The issue hinges on both taste and price. Pure 100% cherry juice has quite a strong taste, which is not unpleasant, but it may not be appreciated by all consumers. It is also expensive to produce. The 100% cranberry juice category remains a niche for those same reasons. Pure cranberry juice is mainly purchased on medicinal grounds by women suffering from recurring urinary tract infections.
However, 100% or near-100% cherry juice has much greater potential than the cranberry equivalent. Compared to cranberry juice, which centres its high antioxidant value on urinary tract health, cherry juice's health and wellness remit is far broader, encompassing more mainstream health concerns like insomnia and pain management.
In the past, when cherry juice was mainly purchased because of its flavour, a satisfactory flavour profile could be achieved with a fairly low proportion of cherry juice (or none at all!), and consumers had no or few qualms about this. Now, however, with cherry's unstoppable emergence as a superfruit sporting a number of specific health benefits, a growing number of consumers will start to seek out products with high cherry juice content, and will be happy to contend with the more robust flavour.