Monday, April 23, 2012

It was supposed to be a nice Sunday fry-up…

Yesterday began as a quiet Sunday morning (with two concerts looming later in the day for Vicki) and we both felt like having something more substantial than our usual yogurt, cereal, and fruit. With some of the Sausage King’s fantastic breakfast links and double-smoked bacon, and eggs from our favorite supplier (organically-raised, pastured chickens), we had the makings of a classic British fry-up, something we have enjoyed at many B&Bs in Olde Blighty. Nothing beats one of these if you want to begin your day with a stick-to-your-ribs breakfast.

I decided to grill some tomatoes to go along with fried mushrooms, so we broke our usual vow not to buy these things out of season. Vicki came home with two that still had the stems and were hydroponically grown, so we stood a chance to have something better than what’s usually available. They turned out surprisingly well with the addition of a bit of balsamic vinegar drizzled over the top.

She’d also come home with some fruit juice because we’d already had two cups of coffee. Since she’d be concertizing in a few hours, Vicki didn’t need her nerves jangling from too much caffeine.

The juice was a Tropicana® product, so it came at a premium price. This brand’s whole image is built on real fruit juice, you know, better than average orange juice from fresh-squeezed fruit. They’ve branched out over the years to other fruit juices, but the image that sticks in a shopper’s mind is all about the fresh-squeezed orange juice, right?

Fresh is not what we got.

The 1.75 L container of “Tropicana® Tropics® Paradise Blendjuice has a lovely photo of a pineapple, a mango, a passion fruit (I believe), accompanied by an azure blue sea and a lovely phalaenopsis blossom. Vicki picked it up after seeing “100% juice blend” at the bottom of the carton. It also says in a small flash: “2 servings of fruit per 250 ml serving”.

The juice didn’t taste bad, but I looked at the label more closely while we ate, and I realized we’d been had. The back of the carton begins with:

2 servings of fruit in every glass*
No added sugar
Excellent source of Vitamin C
Source of Potassium

All good so far, right? Then I looked at the Nutrition Facts box. Next to Fibre was a big fat 0 grams. Hmmm... One thing that is especially important for anyone’s diet is fibre. That is one of the big reasons that fruit is recommended for everyone’s daily intake of food. Fruit is an excellent source of fiber, especially water-soluable fiber which you don't get from grains. To be fair, Tropicana did not promise us any fiber, but it was my expectation that there would be some in the juice. But that's what this is all about: playing to the buyers' expectations.

My eyes dropped down to the ingredients list: “Fruit juices from concentrate (pineapple, apple and passion fruit), carrot juice from concentrate, natural flavours, vitamin C, colour.”

To say the least, I was furious. I know why the put carrot juice in: it’s cheap and adds a color. But I’ll bet that people would think twice about buying this product if they’d included a bunch of carrots in the package photo. Apple juice is in there, too, again, probably because it’s cheap. And what's particularly tropical about carrots and apples?

What natural flavours are they using? That’s a pretty nebulous term and makes my antennae twitch. If the fruit juices used were from high-quality fruit, you’d expect them to have a lot of flavor, right? Why does this product need more flavor? I leave you to figure this out. Ditto for colour. Why does it need added color, and what was this color made from?

Finally, an “excellent source of vitamin C”. Why? Because they added it, just like you’d get ascorbic acid from a vitamin tablet. Most of it didn’t come from the fruit juices used.

I’ve previously done some research on the way Tropicana makes their products. I doubt if you’ve ever had a glass of any of their products that was made from absolutely fresh fruit. Even their orange juice is pretty highly processed: Click Here to view an article that appeared on the CBC not that long ago.

I’m not saying that this product will make you ill or anything. I’m just really incensed that they are leading consumers down the garden path. The packaging, the choice of words, and their advertising campaigns leads us to believe that we’re getting something just a few steps away from the orchard, minimally processed and better for you then the cans of concentrate you’ll find in the freezer section. You’re happy to pay more to buy a quality product. The only thing different from Tropicana® Tropics® Paradise Blend juice and frozen concentrated juice is that you're paying for them to add water.

What you’re being sold, while perfectly legal, falls far short of the expectation generated by Tropicana®'s advertising and product packaging. Great advertising? Sure. Completely honest and above board. I’m not so sure there. I certainly won’t be buying this product again. I will also stay away from all Tropicana® products in the future.

We should have just served water and slices from some very nice fresh Cortland apples that I bought from the Clement’s at the market the previous day.

Sorry for the mixture of US and British English. Blame it on the packaging. I wanted to quote it directly.

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