Campbell Facing Lawsuit Over Deceptive V8 Juice Drink Marketing
"An Elaborate Con," Says CSPI
Campbell Soup Company's V8 brand is best known for its signature 100 percent vegetable juice. But in recent years the company has extended its brand to include juice drinks that have as little as five to 10 percent juice, and whose labels make misleading statements about their juice content, nutritional value, and overall healthfulness, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The nonprofit food watchdog group today formally threatened to sue Campbell if it continues to deceptively market its V8 Splash and V8 V-Fusion Refreshers product lines.
Regardless of their actual juice content, V8 Splash and V8 V-Fusion Refreshers have labels that are festooned with pictures of fruits and vegetables. Graphically, the labels are quite similar to those of V8 products that are 100 percent juice. Campbell even markets the drinks as nutritionally equivalent to fruits and vegetables, boasting about the drinks' antioxidant content, and encouraging consumers to "enjoy the many benefits that come from getting the recommended servings of vegetables every day." Yet V8 V-Fusion Refreshers only contain 20 to 25 percent juice, and V8 Splash drinks only contain between five and 10 percent juice. The latter drinks also include artificial food dyes, high-fructose corn syrup, and sometimes artificial sweeteners such as sucralose or acesulfame potassium.
"Campbell's motivation is that water, high-fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners are cheaper to bottle than 100 percent juice made from tomatoes, carrots, strawberries, kiwis, and so on," said CSPI litigation director Stephen Gardner. "Products like V8 Splash and V8 V Fusion Refreshers are designed to be convincing simulations of the real thing. It's an elaborate con designed to extract money from consumers who will likely think they’re getting something else."
The company is also violating federal law when it claims that its V-Fusion line has "no added sugar," according to the notification that CSPI sent to Campbell president and CEO Denise Morrison. Its V-Fusion Refreshers do contain added sugar. CSPI also contends that many of the statements related to V8 Splash's antioxidant content are misleading. Consumers might assume that the vitamins in drinks labeled as "an excellent source of vitamins A and C" come from the fruits and vegetables pictured on the label, the group says. But in reality, much of the vitamins are added through fortification. FDA regulations prohibit the artificial fortification of nutritionally void beverages—and V8 Splash has more high-fructose corn syrup than fruit or vegetable juice concentrates.
"In fact, the negative effects of the high sugar and liquid calorie content of Campbell's products on consumers' health outweigh any potential health benefits from vitamins A and C," according to CSPI's notification to Campbell.
CSPI's litigation unit is currently suing Coca-Cola for making deceptive claims in connection with its Vitaminwater line of beverages. CSPI, sometimes in cooperation with private law firms, has negotiated settlement agreements with companies such as Airborne, Anheuser-Busch, Bayer, General Mills, and Kellogg.