Florida's Department of Citrus and an alliance of consumer groups have launched a campaign against what they call the deceptive marketing of Sunny Delight.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the Children's Foundation, and the Center for Florida's Children have joined the department in condemning Sunny Delight as "junk juice."

"There is nothing either sunny or delightful about a junk food dressed up as fruit juice," said Michael Jacobson of CSPI, a scientists' group. "Sunny Delight is basically exorbitantly priced sugar water, with a tiny bit of fruit juice and vitamins added. It's like orange soda without the bubbles."

According to Jacobson and the Department of Citrus, Proctor & Gamble's marketing of Sunny Delight is deceiving.

They say Sunny Delight which is marketed as a "real fruit beverage" contains, at most, five per cent fruit juice of any kind. It has only two per cent or less of any type of citrus juice, and could contain as much, if not more, apple juice as it does orange juice.

CSPI and the department hired Hart Research Associates to conduct consumer surveys. They found 47 per cent of parents who bought Sunny Delight in the past month for their children believe it to be all or mostly real fruit juice.

Kept in refrigerated section of the grocery store

They say it should not be labelled as a real fruit beverage and should not be placed near orange juice in supermarkets.

"The fact that it's kept in the refrigerated section of the grocery store right along side the other juices makes you think it's the real thing, unless you read the small print," says Kay Hollestelle, executive director of the Children's Foundation.

In response, Proctor & Gamble officials say they are in full compliance with federal labeling regulations and have done nothing to mislead consumers.

"It has never been positioned as a replacement for juice,'' said Suzette Middleton, external relations manager for P&G's food and beverage division. Middleton says supermarkets decide where the product goes, not the company.

The consumer groups say they want Proctor & Gamble to do three things:

  1. Stop deceptive labeling: state the real juice content more prominently and remove the words "real fruit beverage"
  2. Stop deceptive marketing: place it with other soft drinks in the supermarket
  3. Increase the juice content and decrease the sugar