BROOKLYN, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) - Last week, a non-profit nutrition advocate and food-safety watchdog group helped file a class action lawsuit against PepsiCo, the maker of Naked Juices, claiming the company’s supposedly healthier beverages actually consist of “cheaper and less nutritious ingredients.”
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, along with New York law firm Reese LLP, filed the 35-page lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York Oct. 4.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of plaintiffs Dina Lipkind of Brooklyn, Lyle Takeshita of Los Angeles and Chad Fenwick of Chatsworth, Calif., individually, and on behalf of all others similarly situated.
The plaintiffs had purchased Kale Blazer, Green Machine and other Naked drinks.
According to their lawsuit, PepsiCo misleadingly markets its Naked Juices as mostly containing high-value ingredients such as acai berry, kale, mango and blueberries. However, the predominant ingredient is usually cheaper and nutrient-poorer apple juice, the suit alleges.
“PepsiCo markets its Naked beverages as highly nutritious drinks comprised of super nutrients -- ‘only the best ingredients’ -- in liquid form. PepsiCo does this by naming each Naked beverage after a food or ingredient perceived by consumers to be highly nutritious, like kale, and filling its labels with photographs of these same ingredients,” the suit states.
“PepsiCo’s claims are false and misleading because the drinks do not have the ingredient profile represented.”
The lawsuit also alleges that the company’s “No Sugar Added” claims on its Naked labels imply that the products are low in sugar, when, in fact, they are loaded with sugar.
“The ‘NO SUGAR ADDED’ claim is not qualified with the words, ‘not a low calorie food,’ nor a reference to the nutrition facts panel for information on sugar and calorie content, as required by regulations,” the plaintiffs allege.
According to the lawsuit, Naked beverages contain between 35 and 61 grams of sugar per serving -- that is, between about six and 15 teaspoons of sugar each. To compare, a can of Pepsi has 41 grams of sugar, or about 10 teaspoons of sugar.
The plaintiffs claim they were “deceived into believing” that the beverages contained a “different ingredient value and nutritional profile that they do.”
“Plaintiffs would not have purchased Naked beverages had they known that they lacked the ingredient value and nutritional profile marketed by PepsiCo,” the lawsuit states.
For example, labels for Naked’s Kale Blazer feature leaves of kale and other leafy greens and two cucumber slices, CSPI points out. “Kale is the king of the garden,” according to the text on the side of the bottle, which continues: “And, when it’s blended with cucumber, spinach, celery and a pinch of ginger, you get a royal roundtable of yum. Long live greens.”
The nonprofit contends that advertisements for the product on social media and elsewhere similarly exaggerate the presence of kale in the product, stating “... you might actually live forever because kale has tons of antioxidants that combat aging,” and that the drink is a way to “pack more kale into your diet.”
CSPI litigation director Maia Kats said consumers simply aren’t getting what they paid for.
“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 statement.
The proposed class action complaint contends that PepsiCo has unjustly enriched itself and asks the federal court to provide injunctive relief and monetary relief for misled consumers.
Naked Juice, in a statement, called the lawsuit “baseless.”
“There is nothing misleading about our Naked Juice products. Every bottle of Naked Juice clearly identifies the fruit and vegetables that are within,” the company said. “For example, the label on our Kale Blazer juice accurately indicates each bottle contains 5 3/4 Kale leaves. All products in the Naked portfolio proudly use fruits and/or vegetables with no sugar added, and all Non-GMO claims on label are verified by an independent third party. Any sugar present in Naked Juice products comes from the fruits and/or vegetables contained within and the sugar content is clearly reflected on label for all consumers to see.
“We hold ourselves to a high standard and proudly support clear and transparent labeling of all ingredients on our packaging, on our website and in our marketing.”
CSPI’s litigation department has won numerous agreements improving the marketing or labeling of other products, including an agreement with Coca-Cola prohibiting deceptive statements on its Vitaminwater line and requiring better disclosure of its sweeteners.
The nonprofit also is currently involved in litigation against General Mills over Cheerios Protein, and against CVS over its Algal-900 supplement.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.