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Beverage processor squeezes new life into Australian juice industry

  • Beverage processor squeezes new life into Australian juice industry

    by Market Insider

    Thursday, 01 Sep. 2016

    Major beverage processor Lion is re-thinking its operations in Leeton and Sydney in light of Australia's changing fruit juice drinking habits. A $28 million upgrade to the Lion Dairy and Drinks juice business will see faster, state-of-the-art processing technology from the US installed late this year at Leeton, but 50 jobs lost at its two Daily Juice Company processing plants.

    The cuts represent almost half the workforce at the Leeton site where more than 60 workers currently process, blend and pack the Berri brand chilled juice and Mildura fruit juice drinks.

    Changes in the juice marketplace, including a decline in popularity of three-litre and two-litre juice products, have pushed the company to respond.

    Australians are falling out of love with traditional breakfast servings of citrus, apple and pineapple juice, instead swinging to a whole new spectrum of chilled fresh vegetable and fruit juices and interesting blends.

    Notable has been an annual five per cent slide in sales of typical large plastic bottle and “brick packs” of ultra high temperature (UHT)- processed juice lines often found in family refrigerators.

    These long life products are now increasingly being “squeezed” off the shelf by trendy new premium-priced lines in glass or small cartons containing everything from banana and celery juice to carrot, kale, mint, beetroot and chia.

    The Daily Drinks Co’s modernisation plans would upgrade its juice blending equipment, creating capability for high quality, complex blends.

    In a three-year upgrade plan it will also install high speed packing equipment at Smithfield, and offer more scope for customised products while reducing the company’s environmental impact, too.

    However, while fresh juice options get more sophisticated and sales are growing at about 2pc annually, the entire juice industry is fighting a rear-guard action to defend its healthy reputation.

    Peak lobby group Fruit Juice Australia (FJA) says fruit juice has become unfairly demonised in the so-called “war on sugar”.

    Japanese-owned Lion says its juice developments underpin its ambition to be a leading nutritional beverage company with sustainable profit growth.

    It boasts a 10-year strategy to transform its dairy and juice businesses and champion the nutritional credentials of the portfolio, while also building its presence in high-value Asian markets.

    Meanwhile as part of The Daily Drinks Company’s modernisation drive Lion will re-name the Leeton plant in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, The Leeton Juicing Company, recognising its focus on fresh processing.

    In an Australian first, world class Ice Gen technology will be installed at Leeton, enabling the plant to seal in the natural freshness of juice immediately after extraction and retain this freshness during transportation.

    Leeton’s current extraction role for The Daily Drinks Co and Lion’s cider business is also being gradually extended to include production of high quality fruit and vegetable juice for other industrial customers.



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