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PR Fail: Naked Juice is Stripped of its Natural Title
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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This is the time for cover-ups in the name of profit, right? Athletes and their handy horse 'roids. Models or celebrities and their trusty Photoshop sessions via magazine covers. And the "all-natural" or "organic" CPG craze. Every product on the shelves is trying to tout its greenery in the name of PR, image enhancement, and, oh yeah, a hemp truck full of cash. Such is life for PepsiCo and their beloved "Naked Juice." Only, not so much on the naked part. Or, really, the juice part either. 

According to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, and this blog entry from the Los Angeles Times, the Monrovia-based juice company markets its beverage as "all natural." That wouldn't be such a bad thing if the drink wasn't discovered to contain "unnaturally processed and synthetic ingredients." You see, fellow linguaphiles, we call that...well, crap. Some woman named Gina Park went all CSI on Naked Juice and began seeking certification for a class-action suit, accusing Naked Juice of "violating California's Unfair Business Practices Act" and "seeks unspecified monetary damages and an injunction ordering the company to discontinue its marketing practices." 

While the civility of the lawsuit is complete poppycock (Monetary damages?! Hell, how about buy Snapple, lady?), the whole false advertising really makes Naked Juice's PR positioning take it in the hipster, capri shorts, huh? Nonetheless, the company is paying $9 million to settle the thing out of court

Michele Simon, a public health lawyer and critic of food industry marketing practices, noted that there are numerous cases making their way through the legal system because of food companies' use of the word "natural." She said the PepsiCo case was notable because the company was in essence addressing the murkiness of the word with the settlement. "This company is basically surrendering the use of the offensive, deceptive marketing term," Simon said.

Based on the outcome of this settlement, Naked Juice will drop the word "natural" until there is more regulatory guidance around the world. Translation from legalese: PepsiCo is wearing asbestos pants and its collective behind is very much on fire.

The lawsuit against PepsiCo noted that the company cultivates a "healthy and socially conscious image" to boost sales of the drinks, which typically cost around $4 a bottle (because that price is healthy too). It noted that PepsiCo knew its target market would be willing to pay more for "natural drinks that are 100% juice and free of genetically modified organisms."

The lawsuit also claimed that PepsiCo used genetically modified organisms in its Naked juices. In its statement, the company denied that claim and said its drinks will continue to be labeled "non-GMO." It said it plans to enlist a third party to confirm the non-GMO status of the juices. PepsiCo did not say when it planned to make the labeling changes in line with the settlement, reached earlier this month. On Friday, the website for Naked Juices still showed bottles with the words "all natural" on them.

So, what's next? All those companies claiming to make real "Greek yogurt" need to start showing their yogurt has much more body hair than regular yogurt? Of course, this is not "100% natural." Unless you are putting fruits and veggies in a juicer yourself, nothing is "100% natural." And why? Things have to taste good to sell, and spirulina Asparagus shakes taste almost as good something from McDonald's. I mean, what's wrong with the recipe, anyway? Organic apples? Check. Oranges? Check. Lemons? Check. Kale? Check. And, wait...one more...ah, corporate sham and utter bullsh? Yup. Check. 

P.S. Coca-Cola-made Dasani water? Um, look over your shoulder. 

   

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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