PepsiCo is hitting back on a lawsuit filed against the company's Naked Juice brand, saying claims by the consumer-advocacy group Public Interest are "baseless."
"I feel confident that consumers have the clear information on our labels and the way that we've designed them to understand and make the choices that they need to make," Naked Juice's general manager Andrea Theodore told Business Insider. "I do not feel at this time that this lawsuit is causing us to rethink we need to do something different here."
The juice brand is working to send a similar message to consumers that customers can trust it despite the lawsuit—with a revamped website.
As of Thursday, Naked's website no longer opens with photos of beverages. Instead, the front page is now a statement on a plain green background, with the title "Everything is right there on our bottles." Scrolling down, the website shows images of the labels that the Center for Science in the Public Interest has called "misleading."
The class-action lawsuit takes issue with two major parts of Naked Juices' marketing.
First, CSPI argues that while Naked Juice says it is a no-sugar-added beverage, it is also a high-sugar beverage. Its Pomegranate Blueberry juice, for example, accurately advertises that it is a no-sugar-added beverage, but even a single 15.2-ounce container (the smallest option) contains 61 grams of sugar, about 50 percent more sugar than a 12-ounce can of Pepsi.
Theodore says the higher sugar content of certain Naked beverages shouldn't take away from the fact that the drinks do not contain added sugar.
"We're just trying to call out the competitive advantage that we have—that we're not adding sugar," she said. "We've done a lot of research of what to communicate on our labels and what's important to consumers. And, when we did our research last, the important thing to them was that they've felt duped by some juice brands that do add sugar to their products."
Further, she argued that the fact Naked Juice features calorie counts on the front of bottles, next to the no-sugar-added label, makes a sugar count unnecessary. Customers, she says, have the options to choose options with fewer calories and less sugar.
CSPI's other major argument is that Naked Juice has misled customers into believing that beverages are packed with super nutrients when the dominant ingredients are "cheap, nutrient-poor" juices. The Kale Blazer juice, for example, is mostly orange and apple juice, despite packaging and marketing that emphasizes leafy-green imagery.
Theodore's stance is that the name and label represent the dominant taste, not the dominant ingredient. The Kale Blazer, she says, is designed to taste not like orange juice but a sweeter version of kale.
This isn't the first time Naked Juice has come under fire for its labeling. In 2013, it paid a $9 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit after plaintiffs accused the company of falsely labeling some of its juices as "all natural." The brand agreed to stop using the term on labels, though it denies that the term was misleading or false.
"We made the decision to take the term off our labels," Theodore said, noting that the term "natural" is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. "If there's any question that comes to light that we feel is really, truly misleading consumers, and they tell us that, then we'll make a change."
Right now, however, Naked Juice says that's simply not happening.
"I feel very good about everything we're doing on our labels," Theodore said. "Where we are right now, I have all the confidence that this lawsuit is baseless, and we're going to keep things the way they are."