CSPI sues PepsiCo over Naked health claims

A Naked lie? Today the Center for Science in in the Public Interest (CSPI) brought a class action lawsuit against PepsiCo, alleging that the company’s popular Naked Juice drinks aren’t as healthy as they’re made to seem. According to the complaint, Naked Juices mostly contain plain old apple or orange juice—cheap, low-nutrient ingredients most people wouldn’t pay extra for. But the packaging tells a different story: flavors like “Acai Machine” and “Sea Greens” plug fancy produce on their labels, name-dropping various superfoods.

CSPI’s complaint goes to great lengths to show how the company oversold certain ingredients.

“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,” says Maia Kats, CSPI’s litigation director, in a statement. “But consumers are predominantly getting apple juice, or in the case of Kale Blazer, orange and apple juice. They’re not getting what they paid for.”

PepsiCo denies any wrongdoing. But CSPI’s complaint goes to great lengths to show how the company oversold certain ingredients. To promote its Kale Blazer drink, for instance, PepsiCo ran ads with the slogan “The only kale kale would drink if kale drank kale,” and started a kale-themed twitter feed, @TweetsByKale. (Indicative sample: “If I was a musical instrument, I’d be a uKALEaele. #BetterWithKale”.) Meanwhile, the greenish juice is described this way on Naked’s website: “Kale is king of the garden. And when its dark, leafy greens are blended with cucumber, spinach, celery, and a pinch of ginger, you get a royal round table of yum.”

CSPI offered a different description: “Orange juice with kale and apple flavor.”

Joe Fassler is The Counter's deputy editor. He edits features and investigations, and writes about the intersection of food, environmental issues, technology, and culture.