Last year, people who purchased Naked Juice drinks like “Kale Blazer” thinking that the main ingredient would be kale, or who bought Naked products labeled “no sugar added” believing the drinks were low in sugar, sued Naked’s parent company PepsiCo, alleging they were misled. Now comes news that PepsiCo has agreed to close the books on this dispute by using labels that more accurately reflect Naked’s ingredients.
According to a settlement agreement [PDF] released this morning, PepsiCo is still denying the allegations in the lawsuit, but has nonetheless decided to tweak its labeling to end this matter.
One of the big concerns raised in the lawsuit was that Naked products like Kale Blazer, Sea Greens, Protein Zone, Green Machine, and many others touted their vegetable or non-fruit ingredients even though the primary juice in all of these products is apple and/or orange juice.
Fruit juice is generally much higher in sugar content than vegetable juice, and the plaintiffs had claimed it was deceptive to play up the veggies as the main ingredients when they were not.
To that end, Naked labels will soon indicate in a banner along the top whether a product is a “Fruit Juice,” “Fruit & Veggie Juice,” “Fruit Smoothie,” “Fruit & Veggie Smoothie,” “Boosted Smoothie,” or “Protein Smoothie.”
For example, the bottle for Kale Blazer simply states “Veggies,” but that would presumably be revised to “Fruit & Veggie Juice.”
Naked will also bulk up the prominence of each product’s statement of identity — the more transparent disclosure of what’s in the bottle. Going back to Kale Blazer as an example, this currently states (in rather small type near the bottom of the front label) that the product is “Kale Flavored 8 Juice Blend With Added Ingredients.” Under the agreement, this statement will have to be in a larger font that is at least half the size of the text used in the primary “Kale Blazer” name on the label. To make room, the “100% Juice” boast will be reduced in size and prominence.
Another issue with some Naked juices is the imagery on the current labels. For Kale Blazer, it’s all green veggies without any reference to the orange juice that is the most prominent juice in the bottle. Naked will revise these images to more accurately reflect the ingredients in the affected products and those ingredients’ relative proportions in the blended juice.
PepsiCo maintains that there is no sugar added to its products, but has agreed to reduce the size of this boast on the label by 75%. Additionally, it will be accompanied by an asterisked statement that the juice is “Not a low calorie food.”
The plaintiffs’ problems with Naked’s labels didn’t stop at the front of the bottle. The marketing language on some side labels completely omitted the fact that high-sugar fruit juices were included.
On Kale Blazer, the “romance language” on the side label currently declares that “Kale is the king of the garden. And, when it’s blended with cucumber, spinach, celery and a pinch of ginger, you get a royal roundtable of yum. Long live greens.”
This language will be revised to more accurately reflect the full range of ingredients in the juice and their prominence in the blend: “Kale is the king of the garden. When it’s blended with orange, apple, cucumber, spinach, celery, and a pinch of ginger, you get a royal roundtable of yum.”
Naked has eight months to begin rolling out the new labels on the effected juice products. We’ve reached out to PepsiCo for comment on this story, but have not yet heard back.
“The seriousness with which Naked heard our concerns, and the good faith they brought to our negotiations, is delivering truly positive benefits for consumers,” says Maia Kats, litigation director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which filed the complaint on behalf of the plaintiffs. “Consumers deserve to know at a glance what they’re buying, and Naked’s labeling and marketing enhancements accomplish that. We commend the Naked Juice team for its cooperation and commitment to transparency.”