Stakeholders in the fruit juice products may stir a new wave of crisis if information obtained in the market place and from some consumers is anything to go by. The consumer complaints may have led to nutrition experts’ call for reduction in consumption of the products. The development may also force government and its regulatory agencies to begin to beam searchlight on the activities of fruit juice manufacturers.
Consumers’ worries are centered on excessive sugar content in most of the fruit drinks. But despite the complaints the manufacturers have continued to roll-out new product variants, re-packaging, re-branding and re-positioning existing brands to gain more market share. The major players in the market are Coca Cola Nigeria, Chi Limited, Scoa Nigeria Plc, UAC Foods, Fan Milk, Vital Products Limited, CWay Food and Beverages and LaCasera Nigeria Limited, as well as some other small manufacturers like HDA and Dean Fruit Drinks Nigeria Limited etc.
The leading contenders in the race for the market share also include some foreign brands that took advantage of the huge potential inherent in the Nigeria fruit juice market. The brands are Tropicana, V8 Fusion, Del monte, Tampico among others. Multinationals like Coca Cola’s 5Alive controlled the market, before securing franchise to make the drink in Nigeria, later others like CHI, makers of Chivita and happy Hour, Vital Product, producers of Vitavite, C-Way, makers of Vittop, Scoa Nigeria Plc, makers ofTropic Ice, UAC, makers of Delite berries, and LaCasera makers of LaCasera fruit, took over the market with Chivita in the lead.
Vanguard Companies and Markets (C&M) had chats with some of the consumers. A mother, Josephine Uwaise, based in Lagos said: “In my children’s school the authorities have long stopped parents from adding fruit juice of any form to their children’s launch box. Parents have been asked to add only natural fruits instead.” Mrs. Juliana Uwaezuoke, a mother of two, said with what she has heard about fruit juices, government and its agencies should look into the sugar level in the juice drinks. Another parent, who simply gave her name as Mrs Akudo, stated: “I noticed that my son always stools immediately after meal. It became a habit until I discovered that it was the juice drink he takes to school. Immediately I stopped putting juice in his launch box the habit stopped. I guessed the sugar in the drinks were not good for him. I would request government and its agencies to check the juices manufacturers.”
A nutritionist, Mrs. Abidemi Ayoola, said that babies under a year old should not drink juice at all, while older kids should drink very little of it. Kids aged four to six years of age, she said, should have no more than 200mililiters, while older kids should have no more than 250mililiters a day. “Parents may perceive fruit juice as healthy, but it is not a good substitute for fresh fruit and just packs of more sugar and calories. The reason is that natural fruits contain fiber that is good for the children, because it helps keep blood sugar in check, reduces cholesterol and cleans your colon,” said Ngozika Ehirim, a Chef and Managing Director of Rocking wheel Cafeteria. Reacting to some of these issues, Deputy Director, CWay Food, Tony Ojumoola, said the company’s nutritional content is moderate than others in the market. “Our sweetener is moderate, particularly our nutritional content.
Nutritional support groups are cautious of what we do since it has to do with the age of children. We have decided to do things differently. Our milk product is good for the children, because they need it for growth, we have taken caution to reduce sweetener in our milk products, verify from the parents.” Corroborating C&M findings, Amanjo Olewike of Jamz Enterprises, a distribution company in Okokomaiko, said cheaper drinks – such as juice drinks – are doing well through innovation such as 5 Alive Pulpy Orange (orange juice drink including orange pulp),which has attracted strong sales due to its novelty and also affordable price.
Despite criticism by consumers as a result of its sugar content, Euromonitor report show that the sector has continued to grow by 3.0 percent in volume in the second half of 2016. It said the growth was slower than what it recorded in the previous year, when the compound annual growth rate, CAGR, was 8 percent due to the negative impact of the poor economy.
“We encourage government to take appropriate measures to review and promote full compliance with food quality and safety regulations, including sugar and other ingredient standards, by all fruit juice manufacturers in the country. This should be done along with all key stakeholders in the Food chain to ensure balance and ease of enforcement. Sugar sweetened beverages, including packaged fruit juice, can be part of a healthy diet for all consumers and, like any other food and beverage products, should be consumed in moderation,” said a source in Coca cola.