When you think of fruit juice, what words come to mind? Healthy? Fresh? Nutrient-packed?

Although this is true for raw fruits, juice isn’t quite as straightforward as it appears. The average Brit is currently drinking around 7.4L of orange juice1 per year, but do they know what’s in their juice? Without knowing the processes of widespread manufacture, this is difficult to understand.

There has been a lot of debate around what ‘fresh’ really means, due to changing processes in mass production and regulation. And with different concepts such as ‘not from concentrate’, ‘cold pressed’ and ‘pasteurised’, it’s difficult for both consumers and buyers to understand what they’re getting.

What are the choices?

With challenges around extraction, preservation and taste impacting how fruit juices are made, methods of production and the types of juice available have changed over time.

Over the last 100 years, the concept of juice has changed from simple fresh squeezing and pressing to a commercial process relying upon different methods to preserve it for long periods of time and still offer that fresh taste.

For consumers and commercial buyers, the main mass-produced choices available are ‘concentrate’, ‘not from concentrate’ and ‘cold pressed’.

  • Not from concentrate: fruit is juiced and then pasteurised (treated with mild heat to eliminate pathogens and extend shelf life).
  • Concentrated: Excess water from the fruit is removed, creating a much more concentrated juice. It is then compressed and frozen for easier and more economical transportation, with water re-added before it is sold.
  • Cold pressed: Juice is extracted from the fruit using a cold hydraulic press, retaining nutrients from the fruit. Cold pressed juices have a shorter shelf life, needing to be refrigerated and drank in a matter of days.

You may also be surprised to know that sugars and additives (known as flavour packs) are also often added to concentrated and not from concentrate juices to help enhance flavour that has essentially been lost in the preservation process. That healthy, nutritious drink you had in just got a lot more complicated and gained a lot more unnecessary calories.

Luckily, sugar intake from still and juice drinks is down 26% since 20132, but it can still be confusing process for consumers to find the healthiest fruit juice and can still fall prey to making the wrong choices due to a lack of education around widespread manufacturing processes.

We are starting to see stricter regulations put into place in order to educate consumers, for instance, that pasteurised juice is processed. When it comes to advertising juice as “fresh”, technically this is allowed for pasteurised juice as long as the term does not suggest or imply that it’s unprocessed or unpreserved. A move in the right direction, but still a source of confusion for the consumer or commercial buyer.

For those who wish to cut through the confusion and keep things fresh, there is a fourth option available if you have the resources to freshly squeeze on-site. With commercial juicing machines such as Zummo machines, you and your customers see the entire process from fruit to glass. What’s more, ditching cartons for colourful and fresh on-site squeezing delivers an artisanal, wholesome and premium quality taste and experience.

Overall, for anyone drinking or eating out, getting a clear sense of nutritional information in food or drink containing juices is even more unclear. What’s more, nutrition conscious consumers have to trust hotels, restaurants, bars and cafes that their glasses aren’t being filled with as much sugar as a fizzy drink.

For many operators, bringing juice back to basics is an attractive solution. Squeezing on-site guarantees fresh juice. It’s the real deal that is not only purer in taste but offers a premium look and feel in their products too, costing no more than a good quality juice. As ever more discerning consumers join the quest for health, freshness and transparency in what they eat and drink, the more pressure is put on suppliers and operators to deliver pure, quality products. Offering pure products that have gone through minimal processes will stand operators in a strong position to meet their needs. For us, the future is freshly squeezed.

1https://www.statista.com/outlook/20030100/156/orange-juice/united-kingdom#market-volumePerCapita

2 Making it Happen / BDSA Annual Report 2017