Andrea Villarino. Journalist
In honor of World Juice Day 2017, the President of Asozumos, Javier Lorenzo, analyzes this past year for the sector and new consumer trends.
Question.- How would you describe the last year for the juice and nectar sector?
Answer.- The sector has been having a rough time and has experienced a several-year decline. Nevertheless, although volume has tumbled by 6.28% with respect to 2015, to 830,82 million euros, according to data from the European Fruit Juice Association (AIJN), our sector organization in Europe has been able to maintain the value of sales, as reflected in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fishing, Food and the Environment's (MAPAMA) Report on Food Consumption.
I believe that offering products with greater added value is one of the strategies we must focus on to continue offering consumers quality, healthy and innovative products which meet their needs, and I'm certain that will help us make a comeback.
Exports of juices and nectars from Spain increased in 2016, to 603 million euros, even though the volume declined slightly, to 661,000 tons.
Q.- To what do you attribute the decline in fruit juice consumption?
A.- There are several reasons, but the main one is changes in consumers' habits, which are increasingly diverging from the Mediterranean Diet, and a lack of information about juice, which leads many people to reduce consumption or stop buying juice altogether because of false information.
Most people don't eat their recommended five daily servings of fruit and vegetables, with the result that it's important to increase consumption of these products. Few people know that, according to the 5 A Day Association's Scientific Committee, fruit juice can replace one of those five servings of fruits and vegetables, allowing us to complement our intake of fruits and veggies in a way that is comfortable and tasty.
Q.- Have you seen a change in consumer preferences?
A.- Broadly speaking, we see that consumers prefer healthy, quality products. Fruit juices, consumed in moderation, have notable nutritional qualities, but that's not always the way consumers see it.
For that reason, all parts of the sector, companies, the Public Administrations and distribution are working hard to better convey our products' qualities. To that end, Asozumos is working together with the AIJN on an initiative called "Zumo de Fruta, en Serio," which highlights our products' properties vis-à-vis consumers.
Q.- Given the confusion about fruit juice and nectars, what are companies doing to improve consumers' understanding of those products?
A.- As I said, we have been working with the AIJN since 2016 to raise awareness about fruit juice's true properties and how it's made through the European initiative "Fruit Juice Matters," which is Spain is called "Zumo de Fruta, En Serio.”
This project, which is being implemented in 14 countries, aims to inform consumers about the properties and benefits of fruit juices from a scientific standpoint with a view to clearing up any confusion about fruit juice and balancing the public debate about its properties.
In this regard, our main objective is to convey to consumers that fruit juice contains only the sugars naturally found in fruit, since the addition of sugar is prohibited by law.
Q.- Asozumos has always maintained that the sector is innovative. What new trends are developing?
A.- Consumers are increasingly demanding when it comes to the product and its presentation. For that reason, juice producers are always looking for ways to innovate to adapt to their needs and demands.
As regards the product, consumers want to see new flavors which can be included in a varied and balanced diet, which is why there's a big focus on new fruit and vegetable combinations.
We're trying to use recyclable materials whenever possible, such as PET, tetra briks and glass in the case of products for the foodservice and hospitality segments. We're also constantly trying to reduce water and energy consumption during production and to produce less waste and reuse byproducts. In short, we're trying to produce juice in a way that is increasingly sustainable and environmentally-friendly.
Q.- What challenges does the Association foresee in the coming year?
A.- The main challenge is recovering the trust of consumers and boosting juice consumption in Spain. We're working hard to improve products and offer consumers solutions adapted to their needs, in terms of both nutrition and formats that are appropriate for consumption during different times of the day.
As I mentioned, we're committed to conveying reliable, scientifically-proven information to health professionals about the different products available and their properties to clear up consumers' doubts and erroneous information that we see in the media on a daily basis.
Q.- World Juice Day was held recently. What was the event's main focus this year?
A.- The slogan of this year's edition is "From field to table," since we want people to know how juice is made and where it comes from. Spain is "Europe's vegetable garden," and 20% of production is used to make juice, canned items and other products, which gives you an idea of the industry's importance for farmers and vice versa. Juice production requires the primary sector, and this year we want to raise awareness about it and explain to consumers that when they enjoy our products, they're contributing to Spain's economic development, especially in rural areas.