It might be made with ‘real’ fruit, claim to be ‘fortified’ with vitamins, or feature vivid images of exotic fruit combinations from far-flung sources. It might be organic or Fairtrade. It might be from concentrate, with or without the bits. Any which way, fruit juice is screaming for attention in the rainbow of cartons and bottles making up one of the most dynamic parts of the drinks aisle. At first look, the choice is endless.
However, consumers are increasingly thinking about the way the fruit is picked and processed, how the juice is made and how it finds its way to the store. Fruit juice recently made front page news when a controversial study from Bangor University warned over its sugar content and blasted its health credentials. The researchers claimed that even freshly-squeezed fruit juices can contain as much as five teaspoons of sugar in a glass, and recommended juices be taken off the five-a-day recommendations to encourage people to eat whole fruit and vegetables instead. Dr Hans-Peter Kubis from the North Wales-based university questions the wisdom of including fruit juice in the five-a-day message. “The problem is people often substitute them for real fruit, which is a mistake. Fruit juice is higher in sugars than people realise and they are likely to encourage drinking too much sugar,” he says.
This is not the first time fruit juice has come under fire. The way fruit juice is described, presented and sold is often criticised as a minefield of loopholes and labelling laws that can prove impossible to navigate in the split second that it takes for you to pick a product.
A Which? report on juice drinks released last year, for example, highlighted concerns that marketing is pushing regulatory limits, and questioned whether this is ethical practice. The report asked: ‘Would you be happy to discover, as we did, that a commonly available juice drink with ‘real fruit’ contains more sugar than fruit juice concentrate? While [marketers] know the difference between terms like ‘juice’ and ‘juice drink’ and ‘flavour’ and ‘flavoured’, they’re probably relying on the fact that you don’t’.
Its investigation followed a European study released by trade association Freshfel, aptly titled Where’s the Fruit?, which showed that almost one in five foods featuring fruit on their packaging contain no fruit at all. Linked to this, a new report from the Children’s Food Campaign ‘Soft Drinks, Hard Sell’, outlining the results of a survey of this summer’s soft drinks marketing campaigns, highlights numerous cases of companies using misleading marketing to sell more soft drinks to children. Examples include a Vimto marketing campaign emphasising the drink’s raspberry content, despite the fact raspberry juice makes up just 0.1 per cent of its ingredients. Children’s Food Campaign’s Clare Panjwani, who researched and wrote the report, says: “Our survey found some truly misleading marketing blatantly used to increase sales of soft drinks to children, which contributes to tooth decay and the UK’s record rates of childhood obesity.”
Alissa Hamilton, author of ‘Squeezed: What you don’t know about Orange Juice’, is among the most outspoken critics, and claims there is “widespread ignorance” about how juice is produced and promoted. Her 2009 book reveals the ‘hidden history’ of orange juice, and compares it to the ways the tobacco and junk-food industries have marketed their products. She claims that juice is picked up ‘thoughtlessly at best, and based on misleading information at worst’.
But it is important to remember that fruit juice can be good for you. For every bit of negative press, there are many studies and stories extolling the virtues of various juices in helping to prevent a whole range of health problems.
Many retailers are being increasingly upfront about the country-of-origin and specific variety of fruit in their juices. At the same time, a number of companies are responding to consumers who want to find out more about where and how their food is produced.
Chegworth Valley Juices is a case in point: producing all the fruit for its 17 juices on its farm just 40 miles from London, in Kent, and selling though its shops in Notting Hill and Borough as well as a selection of independent retailers across the capital. Owner David Deme insists that “unlike some juices, everything is grown by us on our farms” and is certified organic. “A lot of juice companies will, for example, if they make an apple and raspberry juice, use apples but then add raspberry flavours and colouring, which we don’t use,” he says. “Our apples our pressed, soft fruit is added, but there is no added sugar or preservatives and it is pasteurised. The main thing for us is that it’s local and people want to shop locally, which is a main thrust for us at the moment.”
Alongside this trend, some companies are looking to give something back to the community and get people talking for the right reasons. Apple juice brand Copella is teaming up with conservationist Dr David Bellamy and The National Trust to raise awareness of English apples through its Plant & Protect campaign. The campaign seeks to encourage consumers and workplaces to plant 25,000 apple trees, preferably of traditional English varieties, over the next two years. Though, while laudable, this is arguably another example of ‘hidden history’, as most shoppers won’t realise that Copella is owned by Pepsico, makers of Pepsi and Walker’s crisps.
So the next time you find yourself in the drinks aisle, look out for packs that have a clear message, few ingredients and ethical credentials.
Ragmans Lane is a 60-acre farm in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. It makes six varieties of juice, each featuring ingredient varieties on the labels so you can see exactly what has gone in.
This range of pure organic juices and smoothies contains the juice of four or five portions of fruit and vegetables and provides you with one portion of the recommended five portions of fruit and veg a day.
This Fairtrade-certified juice from the Natural Beverage Company comes in a number of flavours including apple and mango, black and blueberry, pineapple and passionfruit, with up to 80 per cent Fairtrade content.
All Fruit Passion juices are made from 100 per cent fruit juice, which is Fairtrade certified and bought from growers in Cuba, Brazil and Costa Rica.
English fruit juices pressed in small batches from fruit grown on the family farm in the Chegworth Valley in Kent.
This juice is made from Herefordshire-grown Jonagold apples, which are bought from farming families who strive to grow the best produce and respect the environment.
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