Thursday, November 10, 2011


The beverage industry which has been thriving on caffeinated cola drinks and synthetically flavored sugar syrups appears to have adopted a new strategy to boost their business in the light of universal criticism against their product basket for contributing to over weight, obesity and other life style disorders so rampant to day. Who does not know that their product portfolio is devoid of any nutrients and are based on snow white sugar or the much maligned High Fructose Corn Syrup. As sugar is a habit forming food ingredient, once hooked on to these sugar rich products it is very difficult, especially for youngsters to chuck the habit. Sustained campaign by consumer activists is forcing the manufacturers to indulge in some deception by introducing fruit based drinks giving the consumer the impression that they are healthy! Ironically these so called fruit drinks have only about 10% natural juice, the rest being water, synthetic flavor and sugar! Here is a take on this disturbing trend in promotion of unhealthy foods in many parts of the world.

"A new report from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity,  a non-profit research and public policy organization, found that many popular fruit drinks marketed to children can have the same, if not more sugar as a candy bar, and many use artificial sweeteners. Dr. Marlene Schwartz, deputy director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, said, "The companies really are misleading both the parents and their children. (These drinks are) essentially water and sugar and artificial sweeteners ... and they're trying to package them to look like they are juice." The report also found companies specifically target young kids in advertisements to sell their products. In a statement, the American Beverage Association called the report "another attack by known critics in an ongoing attempt to single out one product as the cause of obesity," adding that soft drink advertising has dropped by 96 percent since 2004 during children's programming. But the industry is still self regulated -- something Schwartz says she believes must change. Schwartz said, "I don't believe self-regulation is the answer, I think in some ways government regulation would be easier because it would guarantee a level playing field." Nutritionist Keri Glassman, author of "The O2 Diet," said on average fruit drinks, soda and caffeinated energy drinks have seven teaspoons of sugar in an eight-ounce serving -- the equivalent of about 10 Hershey Kisses".

In India also to access to any 100% natural juice is a logistical nightmare because of deceptive labeling practices indulged in by the industry making it difficult to distinguish between drinks and juices. It is true that 100% juice based drinks are costlier with profit margins very thin, while fruit flavored drinks are low cost products that can be sold easily with killing margins. There was a time in India almost 4 decades ago when GOI was promoting fruit pulp "containing" soft drinks in order to promote juice making industry in a big way but at that time the health angle was not in focus and the purpose was to find outlet for fruit pulp which could have strengthened fruit processing industry. Now is the time to promote policies and introduce initiatives that can support 100% juice beverages which will better serve the purpose of protecting health. If experts are to be believed industry must promote 100% juice or pulp of different fruits and advise the consumers to dilute the same with adequate water to make their own drink. Canned pulps of some fruits are available in the market but are very expensive to most of the consumers. Probably 50% pulp containing products without addition of sugar also must be allowed, in order to bring down the prices significantly to enable a large section of the consumer community to have access to nutritious fruit drinks..


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