PepsiCo misleads buyers of Naked juice: lawsuit

(Reuters) - PepsiCo Inc PEP.N has been accused in a lawsuit of misleading shoppers into believing its Naked juices and smoothies primarily contain "high-value" ingredients such as kale, when the main ingredient is often cheaper, less nutritious apple juice.

Various flavors of Naked brand juices are seen at the Safeway store in Wheaton, Maryland February 13, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

According to a complaint filed on Tuesday in the Brooklyn, New York federal court, PepsiCo emblazons healthy fruits and vegetables on Naked labels, and touts how the drinks have “no sugar added,” when they actually contain roughly as much sugar as a can of Pepsi.

In a statement, PepsiCo called the lawsuit “baseless,” and said there was nothing misleading about its Naked products.

The lawsuit was filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group, on behalf of three shoppers.

Dina Lipkind of Brooklyn, Lyle Takeshita of Los Angeles and Chad Fenwick of Chatsworth, California claim they overpaid for Naked drinks such as Kale Blazer and Green Machine.

The label for Kale Blazer, for example, promises a “royal roundtable of yum” from its blend of kale with “cucumber, spinach, celery and a pinch of ginger, the complaint said.

But according to the label, kale puree is only the second listed ingredient, between orange juice and apple juice, and a 15.2 ounce serving contains 34 grams of sugar.

Other Naked drinks contain as much as 61 grams of sugar, the complaint said. In contrast, a 12-ounce Pepsi contains 41 grams.

PepsiCo “deliberately cultivates” consumer misperceptions through its marketing of Naked drinks, the complaint said.

The lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of shoppers nationwide and in New York and California. It also seeks unspecified damages.

PepsiCo, in its statement, said every Naked bottle identifies the fruits and vegetables it contains, and the sugar content is “clearly reflected” on the label.

In 2013, the Purchase, New York-based company agreed to stop calling Naked juices “all natural” as part of a $9 million settlement.

The case is Lipkind et al v. PepsiCo Inc, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, No. 16-05506.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman