PepsiCo Scratches “All Natural” Label From Naked Juice Bottles

PepsiCo, Naked Juices, all natural, all natural labeling, transparency, corporate social responsibility, GMOs, Leon Kaye, FDA, food labeling
PepsiCo will remove “all natural” labeling from Naked Juice labels

Another “all natural” label bites the dust.

In an emailed statement, PepsiCo announced late last week it will remove the “all natural” moniker from its Naked Juice product line for the foreseeable future. According to the Associated Press, PepsiCo agreed to pay $9 million to settle a lawsuit its plaintiffs filed, complaining the fruit, vegetable and smoothie drinks contained ingredients that did not fit the definition of “natural.” Synthetic fiber and vitamins were the offending ingredients in this case.

For a company insisting its corporate social responsibility agenda is focused on nutrition and sustainability, PepsiCo’s settlement is another example of the dubious labels it and other large food and beverage companies have used over the years. PepsiCo and its competitors have a long history of resisting both more transparent food labeling as well as demands to make their products genuinely more healthful for consumers.

The Naked Juice debacle is even more embarrassing because, according to the AP’s Candice Choi, the company knew its target customers who purchase the $4 bottles of juice would pay more per bottle if vitamins and other ingredients in the products were not synthetic and hence, truly natural.

Not only PepsiCo and its Frito-Lay brand have scored unwanted attention over misguiding and confusing product descriptions. Other companies have gotten into trouble over “all natural” labeling. Before Ben & Jerry’s announced it would shift to all fair-trade ingredients, the Unilever-owned ice cream company dropped the term from its packages after pressure from the Center for Science in the Public Interest. General Mills is currently in litigation over accusations that its Nature Valley Granola Bars use deceptive labeling (what, it took people that long to figure out those teeth-shattering rations are not “all natural?”), and ConAgra has also been nailed for having genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in some of its cooking oil products that again boasted the “all-natural” label. Retailers, including Trader Joe’s, have been called out over similar fancy terms such as “evaporated cane juice,” which in MBA-speak means granulated sugar.

In fairness to all of these companies, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not offer concise guidance on when, or when not, to use the term “natural.” From the FDA site:

From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term ‘natural’ or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances. –

If that were not comical enough, the FDA then asks, “How helpful was this information?” Well, such a definition does little to guide companies and consumers, but does give lawyers plenty of wiggle room for litigation. But that is why PepsiCo found itself in litigation – because the company was less than forthcoming about the ingredients in those “all natural” juices.

Meanwhile, PepsiCo’s media relation site still describes Naked Juices as “all natural.” In an era when consumers are waking up and are demanding more transparency and authenticity, it is finally time for large food companies to drop that pesky and slippery definition for good.

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye is the editor of and frequently writes about business sustainability strategy. Leon also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business; his work has also appeared on Sustainable Brands, Inhabitat and Earth911. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost).

[Image credit: PepsiCo]

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He has lived across the U.S., as well as in South Korea, Abu Dhabi and Uruguay. Some of Leon's work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost).

10 responses

  1. Does it occur to anyone to actually name the ingredients that are not natural? Are we talking about a radioactive contaminant, or a drop of harmless food coloring? Or does a natural ingredient lose its “naturalness” after it it pureed, even if nothing unnatural has been added? Overall, this is another half-baked news article, probably written by a 20-something trainee who simply wrote down dictation without asking any questions.

    1. Your name quite obviously suites you well. Puns aside, don’t you think it is obvious that many of the health problems in developed countries can be traced back to what we’ve been putting into our bodies? Look back 100 years ago or so and tell me that the same issues were abundantly present… you won’t be able to. Your point is well taken. We ought to be careful not to blow certain aspects of the “demand for transparency in our food discussion” out of proportion. I do agree that this discussion is a bit all over the map at this point and there are definitely areas that are more concerning than others that should call for closer attention. And we have to be careful about how we frame the issues. For instance, having studied food security, I don’t buy into the fact that all GMO’s are bad. Look at the Golden Rice project for an example of how GMO’s are doing good (by providing populations of people in need with life necessitating nutrients that they are otherwise deprived of). Also and as a final point – I am getting a bit tired of people that make negative comments about young people (e.g. your comment about the “20-something trainee”). I happen to be 28 and know many in their 20s that are doing a lot to study and better the food security issues so that our future generations can lead happy lives. Might I turn this around and ask you, what have you accomplished or are working to accomplish to better the lives of others, for now and into the future. Pointing fingers and making snide comments does nothing to help.

      1. Oh Give me a break! ..if people really want “all natural” then they should just grow it themselves! ..I mean come on people if it comes in a bottle and can sustain a shelf live of more than a few days then obviously there are some kind of preservatives in said product! People are always looking for ways to blame someone else for their health issues. If you choose to live your life as they did 100 yrs ago feel free, but remember there have been thousands of advances in medicne and health care that have actually helped people, yet people want to cry about simple addatives.

        1. Grow it themselves? Uh, YEAH so easy to do when you live in a BIG CITY! Trying growing food in a high rise…

  2. I bought big Naked 100% fruit smoothe for $7.99/each bottle. When ever I drink 1/4 to 1/2 cup of this Naked juice, I felt muscle tightness, bloating and observed bruises on my stomach, theighs and arms. It happend today also. why is this? Then I checked on the internet about any side effects of this and I learn about lawsuit due to synthetic stuff init.

  3. OMG ” teeth-shattering rations” I don’t think an article has ever made me laugh harder. Love it! And shame on Naked for the deception all for financial gain…. Then again how are they any different from any other business…. RIP naked I can no longer purchase tho product. It was good while I didn’t know.

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