Nutrition Claims on Fruit Drinks Are Inconsistent Indicators of Nutritional Profile: A Content Analysis of Fruit Drinks Purchased by Households With Young Children

Published:September 22, 2020DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2020.08.009

      Abstract

      Background

      Fruit drinks are the most commonly consumed sugar-sweetened beverage among young children. Fruit drinks carry many nutrition-related claims on the front of package (FOP). Nutrition-related claims affect individuals’ perceptions of the healthfulness of products and purchase intentions, often creating a “health halo” effect.

      Objective

      The aims of this study were to describe the prevalence of FOP nutrition-related claims on fruit drinks purchased by households with young children and to examine the association between claims and the nutritional profile of fruit drinks.

      Design

      The sample included 2059 fruit drinks purchased by households with children 0 to 5 years old participating in Nielsen Homescan in 2017. FOP labels were obtained from 2 databases that contain bar code–level information on all printed material on product labels. A codebook was used to code for presence of FOP nutrition-related claims. The coded claims data were linked by bar code with Nutrition Facts label data. Claim type prevalence was calculated, and the association between claim types and median calories and total grams of sugar per 100 mL was analyzed using Wilcoxon rank-sum tests. The percentages of products containing noncaloric sweeteners (NCSs) with and without each claim type were also calculated and compared.

      Results

      Almost all (97%) fruit drinks sampled had at least 1 nutrition-related FOP claim. Implied natural claims such as “natural flavors” were the most common (55% of products), followed by claims about the presence of juice or nectar (49%). Claims about vitamin C (33%), sugar (29%), and calories (23%) were also common. Fruit drinks with vitamin C, juice or nectar, fruit or fruit flavor, and overt natural claims were higher in calories and sugar and less likely to contain NCSs compared with products without these claims. Fruit drinks with calorie, sugar, NCS, implied natural, and other claims were lower in calories and sugar and more likely to contain NCSs compared with products without these claims.

      Conclusions

      Claims are prevalent on fruit drinks purchased by households with young children. This is concerning given prior research demonstrating that claims can mislead consumers. Regulatory actions such as requiring a warning or disclosure on drinks that contain added sugars or NCSs should be considered.

      Keywords

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      Biography

      E. W. Duffy is a doctoral student, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

      Biography

      L. Smith Taillie is an assistant professor, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

      Biography

      F. R. Dillman Carpentier is a W. Horace Carter distinguished professor, Hussman School of Journalism and Media, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

      Biography

      M. L. Meyer is a doctoral fellow, Hussman School of Journalism and Media, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

      Biography

      M. G. Hall is an assistant professor, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and a member of Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, Chapel Hill, NC.

      Biography

      A. A. Musicus is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA.

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      E. Rimm is a professor of epidemiology and nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA.