It’s hard not to feel virtuous after downing a bottle of vegetable juice — like Naked Juice’s Kale Blazer. After all, it’s packed with nothing but leafy green goodness, right? Well, not exactly. In fact, the first ingredient in Kale Blazer is orange juice, and the third is apple juice. Which means that, even though neither of those fruits is pictured on the label, together, orange and apple juice make up a significant portion of the so-called green blend.
And that’s exactly why food industry watchdog group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has recently filed a class-action lawsuit against PepsiCo (which owns Naked Juice) claiming that the company is misrepresenting the products’ ingredient profiles. The lawsuit alleges that consumers are being duped into paying high prices for premium, nutrient-rich ingredients — like kale, acai berries, mango and blueberries — when they’re really getting mostly inexpensive and not-as-nutritious orange and apple juices.
A statement from PepsiCo reads: “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.” As an example, the Kale Blazer’s label does say that each bottle contains 5 3/4 kale leaves — a decent amount of green stuff. “And the company has to add the orange and apple juice in order to make the kale palatable,” reasons Lauri Wright, Ph.D., R.D., assistant professor of nutrition at University of South Florida, College of Public Health. “So in my professional opinion, Naked Juice is not misrepresenting itself.”
As to CSPI’s other claim, that the amount of sugar in a bottle of Naked Juice nearly rivals that in a can of Pepsi, Wright says: “Sugars are not created equal. Natural sugar (fructose) is more healthful than added sugar (sucrose) because it is metabolized slower, and being from fruit, it is packaged with many vitamins and minerals.” In other words, equating a pure fruit-and-vegetable-juice blend to soda isn’t really a fair comparison.
The bottom line: Don’t judge a juice simply by the picture on the front of the bottle. Be sure to read the ingredient list and the nutrients panel, then decide for yourself which juices are a smart — and nutritious — choice.
Sally Wadyka is a Boulder, Colorado-based journalist who writes about nutrition, health and wellness.