CAMPAIGNS: Drinks prove a bit on the sweet side - Consumer

Client: Consumers’ Association
Campaign: Survey on sugar levels in fruit drinks
PR Team: In-house
Timescale: July 99 - Mar 2000
Budget: pounds 12,969

Client: Consumers’ Association

Campaign: Survey on sugar levels in fruit drinks

PR Team: In-house

Timescale: July 99 - Mar 2000

Budget: pounds 12,969

Sugar is the main culprit in cases of tooth decay and children are

especially prone to dental damage through their consumption of soft


Many soft drinks are marketed as a healthy alternative to their fizzy

counterparts, when, in actual fact, they contain equally high levels of

sugar. The packaging of juice drinks is very similar to that of fruit

juices and this confusion often leads the consumer to perceive them as


The Consumers’ Association’s Which? magazine conducted a survey to

assess the sugar, acidity and vitamin C levels in juice drinks.


To investigate the reality behind the image of fruit drinks as a healthy

alternative to conventional soft drinks and increase awareness of their

harmful ingredients. To re-emphasise Which?’s position as an

authoritative brand, offering practical suggestions as well as


Strategy and Plan

Tests on 19 juice drink brands were carried out by an external

laboratory over a six-month period. Which? liaised with several dental

health experts and employed one as a consultant to advise on the effects

of sugar and acidity on teeth. Drink labels were also checked for

accuracy of information.

The results were tabulated under product, price, size, citric acid

content, vitamin C content, sugar content, fruit juice content and

sweetener content.

The impact of the market on children was evaluated by Tetra-Pak and SMRC

Childwise. Their figures showed that more than two-thirds of four- to

seven-year-olds drink fruit-flavoured drinks, with children under five

guzzling an average of two litres a week.

The survey revealed that Del Monte’s Five Alive contains the equivalent

of five teaspoons of sugar in a small carton, more sugar than a can of

Coca-Cola. Sunny Delight, which is sold next to fruit juices in

refrigerated supermarket, contains only five per cent fruit juice, the

least of all the drinks tested. Ribena’s ToothKind brand, which is

accredited by the British Dental Association, causes less tooth erosion

than other juice drinks but is still not deemed to be ’kind’ to


A press release, research notes and the Which? article were sent to

consumer and health correspondents, and journalists were contacted to

talk through the article.

Measurement and Evaluation

The survey was published in the March issue of Which? and was posted on

its web site (

The national press picked up on the findings, with stories running in

the Daily Mail, the Independent, the Sun, the Daily Telegraph, the Daily

Star, the Guardian and the Mir-ror. Which? editor, Graeme Jacobs, was

quoted extensively.

Discussion was generated in the broadcast media, with BBC Breakfast

News, Radio 4’s Today programme, the BBC One O’Clock News, Sky News, BBC

Radio 5, BBC World Tonight on Radio 4, BBC News 24 and BBC Radio 1 all

covering the story. Interviews with Tessa Russell, the report’s author,

and representatives of Procter and Gamble, the makers of Sunny Delight,

and the British Dental Association all featured.


Although Which? reports regularly generate wide media coverage, the

interest in the fruit drinks story was almost unprecedented. All key

messages were clearly communicated in a range of print and broadcast

media - effectively communicating the reality of juice drinks to the


The coverage also helped to position Which? as constructive as well as

critical. The Consumers’ Association is continuing to call for

legislation stipulating that ingredients, including sugar, are clearly

labelled at all times.

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