Vitamin Waters = H20+ Sugar + Spin

Posted by Josette Dunn on 10th January 2011

A CHOICE review of the popular and growing number of vitamin enhanced water drinks advises consumers not to buy into the hype as they are essentially expensive lolly waters with hyperventilated health claims.

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Some of the drinks, which go by names such as ‘Nutrient Water’, ‘Smart Water’ and ‘Vitamin Water’ and retail for between $2.50 and $4.00, contain enough sugar in one 500ml bottle to provide the average woman with a third of her recommended daily intake.

Despite this, many come with packaging that spruik over the top health claims and instant wellbeing benefits. For example Nutrient Water claims that drinking its Cranberry Grapefruit Multi-Vitamin will give you the same benefits as ‘eight hours sleep, a bowl of steamed greens and pre-dawn power walks.’

It’s no secret that consumers today are very concerned about their health, and are trying to choose products which are nutritious.  Many food manufacturers have responded to this trend by changing ingredients to make their existing products healthier, and developing new products which are healthier – whether that means less fat, less sugar, more fibre or any number of other strategies.

Marketers have also responded to the trend by highlighting their products’ health benefits to consumers via advertising and packaging.  This is all well and good for products which truly are healthy, but when the health claims are false or misleading it is shameful.

Australians are more obese and overweight than ever, and companies effectively conning well meaning customers into buying and consuming unhealthy foods such as sugar packed ‘vitamin waters’ is only exacerbating the problem.  Consumers should not have to stand in the supermarket aisle for 10 minutes reading the fine print on the nutritional information table for every beverage on the shelf in order to find out which one really is healthy.  Nor should they have to possess a degree in health science to understand what the tables mean.

CHOICE believes it’s time to get tough on potentially misleading promotions and labelling such as ‘nature approved ingredients’ and ‘natural flavours’ which mean nothing.

When CHOICE complained to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in 2008 that Coca Cola Amatil’s Glaceau Vitamin Water made a mockery of food labelling laws, the complaint was rejected. Since that time the market has been flooded with similar products.

“It’s time to take another look at the way vitamin enhanced waters are being marketed; these drinks are leading consumers up an imaginary garden path to health and vitality,” says Ms Just.

“Treat them like any other sugary or artificial drink; enjoy occasionally, not as a means to any kind of wellbeing whatever the label or pretty pictures might suggest.”