Appearing fourth on a list of five of the ‘dodgiest junk food marketing claims’ of 2011, the UK-based Children's Food Campaign (CFC) slammed Vitaminwater for claiming on its website that the brand contained fruit juices, when in fact only 3 out of 8 varieties’ contained fruit in the form of extracts.
The naming and shaming forced Coke to alter its marketing for Vitaminwater and issue a statement: "We have reviewed our brands section on our UK website and can confirm that one reference relating to fruit juice and Glaceau vitaminwater is an incorrect description of the brand’s ingredients. We acknowledge our error and have removed this reference from our website with immediate effect.”
Vitaminwater was cautioned about its claims in the UK at the beginning of 2011 when the advertising watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), ruled claims like, “hydration for the nation” above a picture of the drink range with the words, “delicious and nutritious” was misleading due to presence of “the equivalent of four or five teaspoons of added sugar”.
Vitaminwater is the subject of an ongoing legal action brought by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) in the US that seeks restitution against Coca-Cola for, "deceptive and unsubstantiated claims".
In initial proceedings in 2010, lawyers for Coca-Cola stated, "no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking Vitaminwater was a healthy beverage".
The Federal Trade Commission has also been asked to investigate the claims by the National Consumer’s League.
Topping the CFC dodgy claims list was Perfetti Van Melle for claiming Chuppa Chups were made from“only real lemon juice” when they contained only 3% juice.
Sugar and soft drinks
In second, the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA) was attacked over an education programme that said sugar is sometimes added to drinks to maintain sweetness due to climate change and variations in crop sugar levels. CFC said sugar levels were much higher in many soft drinks, not just fruit juices.
The BSDA said it had been unfairly fingered by the CFC as the programme referred purely to fruit juices and was not relevant for other soft drinks manufactured by its members.
BSDA media director Richard Laming told this publication the accusations were, “ludicrous and irrelevant” and that the BSDA weblink contained in the CFC press release was for carbonated drinks which had nothing to do with its education programme.
Charlie Powell, a spokesperson for the CFC, acknowledged the wrong weblink had been sent out in the release but said it did not sway the poll because it did not change the fact that the programme attempted to, “disingenuously justify adding small amounts of sugar to soft drinks including juices, when most BSDA products contain little juice and a lot of sugar.”
The full CFC list can be found here.