Minute Maid Co, the US juice company, has announced it is to introduce the first national brand of vitamin-D-fortified juice, in a move being seen as the next move in the race to capture the health drink market. PepsiCo's Tropicana unit is seen as its main rival.

Minute Maid, a unit of Coca-Cola Co, said vitamin D - which aids the body's absorption of calcium and helps prevent osteoporosis - will be added to Minute Maid calcium-fortified premium homestyle-squeezed orange juice, as well as some of Minute Maid's calcium-fortified juice blends, from the beginning of April.

Minute Maid said it plans to add Vitamin D to its other Minute Maid orange-juice products by mid-June. Minute Maid already fortifies orange juice with calcium, vitamins C and E and zinc. Tropicana fortifies its orange juice with calcium and vitamins C and E.
 
"Vitamin D fortification, in conjunction with calcium, provides a delicious, convenient way to help consumers build even healthier bones,'' said Donald R. Knauss, president and CEO of Minute Maid Americas. "We expect significant consumer interest in this Minute Maid innovation, which will contribute to growth for both the category and Minute Maid branded products."

But a spokeswoman for Tropicana was quoted today saying that its research had failed to show a strong consumer need for vitamin D fortification. It therefore had no plans for a vitamin D enhanced launch.

The launch of Minute Maid's vitamin D plus calcium-fortified juices will be supported by a fully integrated marketing campaign, including print advertising, in-store promotions, FSIs, a consumer education initiative on Vitamin D, and media outreach to the medical community. Doner Advertising is creating the advertising, which is scheduled to begin mid-May.