All natural or all lies?
Are Naked juices and smoothies less healthy than they look? A class action lawsuit filed Tuesday in New York by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nutrition and food-safety watchdog group, accuses PepsiCo, which bought the California-based beverage company in 2007, of promoting an inflated view of Naked’s health benefits in advertisements and labels. Representing consumers in California and New York that bought Kale Blazer, Green Machine, and other Naked juice beverages, CSPI says the Naked juice lawsuit is justified because the brand makes shoppers think the drinks are mostly comprised of “super nutrients” like kale but that, in fact, they mostly contain “cheaper and less nutritious” ingredients like apple and orange juice.
“This is a baseless lawsuit. There is nothing misleading about our Naked Juice products. Every bottle of Naked Juice clearly identifies the fruit and vegetables that are within. For example, the label on our Kale Blazer juice accurately indicates each bottle contains 5 3/4 Kale leaves,” PepsiCo said in a statement yesterday.
Not so, CSPI litigation director Maia Kats said.
“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,” Kats said in a CSPI article. “But consumers are predominantly getting apple juice, or in the case of Kale Blazer, orange and apple juice. They’re not getting what they paid for.”
The lawsuit also accuses PepsiCo of failing to meet Food and Drug Administration requirements by not prominently disclosing that Naked drinks are “not a low-calorie food.” Further, it claims that Naked’s “No Sugar Added” label makes consumers think the drinks have low sugar, when in fact the beverages can contain as much sugar as a can of Pepsi.
This is not the first time PepsiCo has faced legal action for the marketing of its Naked drinks. In 2013, a class action lawsuit took issue with Naked’s “all natural” claims, according to Fox, charging that some of the drinks actually contained genetically modified organisms.
Pepsi denied the claims but settled the lawsuit for $9 million. According to the terms of the settlement, consumers who purchased Naked juices between September 27, 2007 and August 19, 2013 could claim a $75 payment with proof of purchase or $45 without it.
“The ‘all natural’ claim on our label described the fruits and vegetables in the bottle—not the vitamin boosts added to some Naked beverages. Naked juice and smoothies will continue to be labeled 'non-GMO,' and until there is more detailed regulatory guidance around the word 'natural' we've chosen not to use 'All Natural' on our packaging,” a spokeswoman said at the time, according to ABC.
PepsiCo says today that all of its non-GMO claims have been verified by an independent third party.