Consumption of fruit juice rose 24 per cent last year to 366ml per person per week, according to a preview of the latest Expenditure and Food Survey, published by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
The figures, compiled in the year up to March 2006, reveal the pace of change on the UK soft drinks market as consumers continue to look for healthier options, ditching sugar-laden fizzy drinks.
Fruit juice was the only soft drink category to show significant consumption growth, with the much-lauded bottled water sector only rising by one per cent.
The popularity of juice has grown as more consumers look to heed the government's message of five fruit and vegetable portions per day.
Juice is a good way to notch up a portion because it can be consumed on-the-go. A similar trend has been seen in the fruit smoothies category recently, again attributed to the five-a-day campaign.
"There is a massive consumer request for healthy alternatives on the high street at the moment," Chris Connon, marketing manager for Crussh Juice Bars, told BeverageDaily.com.
The DEFRA survey found fruit and vegetable purchases were at their highest for 20 years in the UK.
"These healthier trends in food purchases are promising, but we cannot be complacent, and must continue to encourage these trends, through healthy eating initiatives, like the five-a-day programme," said Jeff Rooker, minister for sustainable food and farming.
That is likely to mean continued pressure on less healthy soft drinks, such as regular carbonates.
Poor performances from this and other areas of the sector meant total soft drink consumption actually dropped during the DEFRA survey period.
"Overall, soft drinks consumption is very dependent on the weather, and the period covered by this survey (April 2005 to March 2006) includes the disappointing summer of 2005 rather than last year's hot spell," said the British Soft Drinks Association.
"These figures show that consumers can enjoy soft drinks within a balanced diet," said association spokesperson Richard Laming.
DEFRA's full survey will be published on 24 May.