Be careful in the healthy food aisle – you may find the benefits of a popular drink brand are not as – well, naked – as they appear.
PepsiCo’s Naked brand of fruit and vegetable juices is under fire for misleading consumers about the beverages’ nutritional benefits. The brand, which bills itself as a super-ingredient provider to the health-conscious, is being sued for “false and misleading claims.”
In a class action complaint filed in October, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) contends that PepsiCo is misleading consumers with what amounts to false advertising – suggesting the Naked line of drinks contains far more of the healthy ingredients you see on the label than you’ll actually find in the drink itself.
The lawsuit claims that PepsiCo “misleadingly markets the Naked beverages” and cites Kale Blazer, one of the top-selling Naked drinks, as a “representative” example of the company’s marketing strategy. Kale Blazer, featuring dark, leafy greens on its label, is composed primarily of orange juice.
“Consumers are paying higher prices for the healthful and expensive ingredients advertised on Naked labels, such as berries, cherries, kale and other greens, and mango,” said Maia Kats, CSPI litigation director, in a statement related to the class action lawsuit. “They’re not getting what they paid for.”
Essentially, the lawsuit contends that the Naked beverages are chock full of sugar and are far from the healthy foods that they’re described as and that are shown on the label. A bottle of Kale Blazer contains eight teaspoons of sugar, deriving mainly from the orange juice and apple juice. A can of soda, by comparison, has about 10 teaspoons of sugar.
While the lawsuit admits that PepsiCo includes language on its Naked beverages stating that they are “not a low calorie food,” it does so in what CPSI describes as a “tiny-text claim” that’s “camouflaged” on the side of the label.
In a statement, PepsiCo called the claims baseless and said the “sugar content is clearly reflected on [the] label for all consumers to see,” according to reports.
But that’s not enough to dissuade CPSI from taking umbrage with the marketing strategy of the beverage-making behemoth. “Although Kale Blazer is predominantly orange juice, it is not named ‘orange juice with kale and apple juice,’ or ‘orange juice with kale and apple flavors,’ nor does the label predominantly show oranges and apples,” states the lawsuit.
Several Naked products, including Blue Machine, Mighty Mango and Probiotic Machine Tropical Mango, contain more than 13 teaspoons of sugar per 15.2 ounce serving. The Pomegranate Blueberry flavor contains 15.25 teaspoons of sugar – or about 53% more sugar than a can of soda.
Other brands, such as Odwalla, do a better job explaining their total sugar content, according to the class action suit. “Odwalla juices qualify their ‘no sugar added’ claim with the following, equally prominent text, ‘not a reduced calorie food, see nutrition facts for sugar and calorie content,’” states the lawsuit.
The class action suit, representing three plaintiffs, seeks to award monetary damages to customers and wants PepsiCo to revise its marketing related to Naked drinks.
Richard Scott is a health care reporter focusing on health policy and public health. Richard keeps tabs on national health trends from his Philadelphia location and is an active member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.