PepsiCo is hitting back in a lawsuit against the company’s Naked Juice brand, saying consumer-advocacy group
the Public Interest (CSPI)’s claims are “baseless.”
“I feel confident that consumers have the clear information on our labels and the way that we’ve designed them to understand and make the choices that they need to make,” Naked Juices’ general manager Andrea Theodore told Business Insider. “I do not feel at this time that this lawsuit is causing us to rethink we need to do something different here.”
The juice brand is working to send a similar message to consumers — that customers can trust Naked despite the lawsuit — with a revamped website.
As of Thursday, Naked’s website no longer opens with photos of beverages. Instead, the frontpage is now a statement on a plain green background, with the title “Everything is right there on our bottles.” Scrolling down, the website shows images of the labels that CSPI has called “misleading.”
The class action lawsuit states two major problems with Naked Juices’ marketing.
First, CSPI argues that while Naked Juice is, in fact, a no-sugar added beverage, it is also a high-sugar beverage. Its Pomegranate Blueberry juice, for example, accurately advertises that it is a no-sugar-added beverage, but even still a single 15.2-ounce container (the smallest option) contains 61 grams of sugar, about 50% more sugar than a 12-ounce can of Pepsi.
Theodore says that certain Naked beverages’ higher sugar content shouldn’t take away from the fact that the drinks do not contain added sugar.
“We’re just trying to call out the competitive advantage that we have — that we’re not adding sugar,” she says. “We’ve done a lot of research of what to communicate on our labels, and what’s important to consumers. And, when we did our research last, the important thing to them was that they have felt duped by some juice brands that do add sugar to their products.”
Further, she argues, Naked Juice features calorie counts on the front of bottles, next to the no sugar added label, making a sugar count unnecessary. Customers, she says, have the options to choose lower calorie and lower sugar options.
CSPI’s other major point of contention is that Naked Juices mislead customers into believing that beverages are packed with super nutrients when the dominant ingredients are “cheap, nutrient-poor” juices. The Kale Blazer juice, for example, is mostly orange and apple juice, despite packaging and marketing that emphasises leafy-green imagery.
Theodore’s stance is that the name and label represent the dominant taste, not the dominant ingredient. If you pick up the Kale Blazer, for example, it isn’t going to taste like orange juice — it’s going to taste like a sweeter version of kale.
This isn’t the first time that Naked Juice has come under fire for its labelling. In 2013, PepsiCo’s Naked Juice paid a $9 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit after plaintiffs accused the company of falsely labelling some of its juices as “all natural.” The brand agreed to stop using the term on labels, though it denies that the term was misleading or false.
“We made the decision to take the term [natural] off our labels,” says Theodore, noting that the term “natural” is not FDA regulated. “If there’s any question that comes to light that we feel is really, truly misleading consumers, and they tell us that, then we’ll make a change.”
Right now, however, Naked Juice says that’s simply not happening.
“I feel very good about everything we’re doing on our labels,” says Theodore. “Where we are right now, I have all the confidence that this lawsuit is baseless, and we’re going to keep things the way they are.”
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