Monday, August 9, 2010

Vitaminwater lawsuit asserts that name is misleading

Posted by on Mon, Aug 9, 2010 at 8:00 AM

click to enlarge vitaminwater.jpg

The days of Vitaminwater being marketed as a sports drink could be numbered. A U.S. District Court judge recently decided to allow a class-action lawsuit against Coca-Cola to proceed.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest filed the lawsuit in January 2009, arguing that Coca-Cola is violating consumer-protection laws by failing to overtly acknowledge the sugar content in its bottled drink.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nonprofit consumer advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., focuses on food safety and product labeling. The crux of the organization's argument against Vitaminwater is that consumers are being misled into thinking this is a healthy product. As a recent Time article notes, CSPI suggests the amount of sugar outweighs any potential health benefits from the vitamins: 

"They added vitamins to crap," says Stephen Gardner, chief litigator for CSPI. "And it's still crap. Consumers shouldn't have to assume that the front of a label is a lie. You cannot deceive in the big print and tell the truth later."
Coca-Cola's response to date has been that the lawsuit is without merit and the drink clearly displays the calorie content and ingredients on the label.

While I don't believe that people reach for a Michelob Ultra after swimming a few laps, it's not a big stretch to say that Vitaminwater is seen as a post-workout option. I suspect that Coca-Cola will not give in to a name change -- the brand cost Coca-Cola $4.2 billion in 2007 -- but a subtle change to the marketing strategy seems likely. I think Vitaminwater should simply embrace its sugar content. Sweetwater has a nice ring to it.
 
[Image via Flickr: stu_dio]

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