Have You Been Squeezed? Pepsi Sued Over Naked Juice Health Claims

A four-point view of a Naked Juice bottle, from Pepsi

A four-point view of a Naked Juice bottle, from Pepsi | PepsiCo

“The Juice” may no longer be loose, but after hearing about this, you may want to lose your juice. Your Naked Juice, a popular brand of sold by Pepsi, that is. Soda companies like Pepsi and Coca-Cola have been seeing slumping sales and slipping market shares when it comes to sales of their flagship products. In an effort to bolster their strategies, they’ve begun putting resources toward selling other products, like bottled water and juices.

The public, becoming increasingly aware of just how awful sugary beverages are, view alternatives like water, seltzers, and juices more favorably. As a result, sales of those products have been ramping up. The problem, though, is those beverages — notably items like sweetened iced teas and juices — can contain just as much, if not more, sugar than your average soda.

So, if you thought that by buying juice — a Naked Juice, for example — you were doing your body a favor, you were mistaken.

That’s at the heart of a lawsuit recently filed against Pepsi (or PepsiCo), which alleges the company was deceiving and misleading consumers. It all stems from some messaging included on the Naked Juice label (seen above), which says “NO SUGAR ADDED” — a message that some are claiming implies that the product is low in sugar, or is actually sugar-free. It’s not and, depending on the type of product, can contain more sugar than a can of cola.

As an example, a bottle of Orange Carrot Naked Juice contains 49 grams of sugar, whereas a 12-ounce can of Pepsi contains 41 grams.

Pepsi, Naked Juice, and your health

Blood orange juice

Blood orange juice | iStock.com

The lawsuit itself was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer group that promotes “advice and advocacy for healthier food.” According to CSPI, “PepsiCo misleadingly markets Naked Juices as predominantly containing high-value ingredients, such as acai berry, blueberries, kale, and mango, when in fact the predominant ingredient in the product line is usually cheap, nutrient-poor apple juice.”

“What’s more”, CSPI says, is “the company fails to prominently disclose that the drinks are ‘not a low-calorie food,’ as required by the Food and Drug Administration.”

Now, the question is whether or not this has any merit. Corporations like PepsiCo and Coca-Cola spend huge amounts of time and money in designing their labels and marketing their products, and they do have an incentive to try and put a “healthy” spin on an item like Naked Juice. While it’s easy to empathize with consumers who may have been misled by the packaging and marketing, all anyone really has to do is turn the bottle around and look at the nutrition facts, which clearly state how much sugar the product contains. Is that really enough to get Pepsi off the hook, though?

A bowl of sugar

A bowl of sugar | iStock.com

You can look back at a very similar situation a few years ago in which Coca-Cola found itself defending Vitaminwater. That lawsuit was also filed by CSPI, and was eventually settled when Coca-Cola agreed to change the labels, and stop using certain slogans, like “vitamins + water = all you need.”

But at the heart of that lawsuit was the same underlying issue: Corporations using deceptive marketing to fool consumers. These companies may indeed be doing that, but the best defense you can put up, as a consumer, is to research what you’re putting in your body. Most of the time, that can be as easy as looking at the nutrition facts listed on a product — specifically, look at serving sizes, servings per unit, the calories, and the amount of sugar.

If you want to live a healthier lifestyle, juice — Naked Juice, or otherwise — probably shouldn’t be a staple. Most fruit juices contain a lot of sugar, although they can also be effective delivery systems for vitamins and calcium. But given how destructive we know sugar to be, it may be worth it to cut it out of your diet.

It won’t kill you to have some juice every so often, but don’t be fooled into thinking that you’re doing your health any favors by choosing a Naked Juice or something similar over a soda. Though juice is ultimately better than soda (it at least contains some vitamins and minerals), it’s the sugar and calorie content you should be looking out for.