Making Adulterers Pay

Pom Wonderful did something, err, wonderful for the food industry by fighting to uphold the standards of the category in which it leads, pomegranate juice, to the point of successfully suing unscrupulous new entrants who tried to ride on its coattails by marketing lower grade products as if they were the real thing:

"Consumers buy the products to gain the health benefit – if that is not present then there are problems for the category. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should be more active in this area but we all know how under resourced they are. We are trying to protect the integrity of the category." Rob Six, spokesperson for Pom Wonderful

"Purely Juice", a company that claimed to sell purely pomegranate juice that was in fact primarily cane sugar and corn sweetener was ordered to pay $1.5mm to Pom.

The category for healthful snacks where KIND leads gets similarly hurt when consumers are duped into buying "natural" "nutritional" and "energy" bars whose ingredients contain refined sugars like high fructose corn syrup and refined flowers and hydrogenated oils, contributing to the diabetes and obesity epidemics overtaking America.  Similar enforcement action should follow for companies – big or small – that manipulate what it means to be "all natural" and "healthful."

Court finds pomegranate juice is not so super

Nutra Ingredients Newsletter

By Shane Starling

23-Jul-2008 – California-based pomegranate maker Purely Juice has been ordered to pay market leader, Pom Wonderful, $1.5m for making false and misleading claims about the purity of its juices.

Purely Juice‘s claim that its product was "100% pomegranate juice" was found to be misleading by a US Federal District Court in Los Angeles.
The Court found, after testing that included Purely Juice’s own analysis, that the juice "consists primarily of cane sugar and corn sweetener, and contains little pomegranate solids."
It also found fault with Purely Juice claiming its pomegranate product contained "NO added sugar or sweeteners".
The ruling

The 27-page ruling also made note of the fact Purely Juice relied on a broker to source its pomegranates from overseas and that there were known adulteration issues from foreign sources the company should have been aware of.
It found Purely Juice’s product which contained additional ingredients such as sweeteners, could effect the nutritional profile of the product and therefore compromise the health benefits that had only been clinically demonstrated for the whole fruit.
Purely Juice had not recalled any product since its own testing revealed the adulteration, a revelation that had led it to blaming its own supplier and threatening legal action against it.

"Purely Juice markets itself as a lower priced option to plaintiff,"
the Court verdict stated. "Purely Juice would have lost most or all of its market share had they not misrepresented the content of its juice."
Pom Wonderful president Matt Tupper commented: "Seven independent labs confirmed that Purely Juice was adulterated with added sugar, added color and filler juices."
To see the District Court ruling click here.
Supply strain

Pom Wonderful, which turned over about $165m in 2007, has noted the delicacy of a supply chain struggling to meet rising demand in the US and abroad.
While Pom Wonderful sources only from its own, clinically-backed, Californian-grown, Pom variety trees, the booming demand for pomegranate juice has led to companies entering into ad hoc arrangements that have raised questions about the quality of supply.

"Healthy competition is one thing, but they lied," said Pom Wonderful owner, Lynda Resnick. "In 2002, when we first started marketing pomegranate juice for the first time only 4 percent of the U.S. population had tasted it. Now there are 950 products that claim to contain pomegranates. There aren’t enough pomegranate groves on the planet to supply the products in the marketplace."
Tupper noted the presence of "sugar, colorants, and cheap filler juices" was becoming more common in products marketed as "100% pomegranate juice".
He added: "Unfortunately, this is not a problem unique to pomegranate juice; adulteration of orange, apple, and cranberry juice has occurred for decades as unscrupulous suppliers attempt to add to their economic bottom line by cheating consumers of real ingredients."

Although Purely Juice could not be contacted before publication, chief executive officer, Paul Hachigian was quoted in press reports blaming the company’s supplier, Perma Pom.
The problem was due to "a supply chain issue" Hachigian said, noting his company was considering legal action against the supplier.
"We were buying 100 percent concentrate," he said. "That was part of the spec and the formula. There was never any intent to falsely advertise. It was one production period. We had no idea it occurred. We stopped shipping the product and started shipping an all new product."
Total non-recall
But the court noted there had been no product recall.
Resnick said Pom Wonderful had asked Purely Juice to stop advertising the product as "100 percent pomegranate" after it viewed a chemical analysis of the product.
When Purely Juice continued to sell the product, it took the court action.
"We hope this ruling serves as a wake-up call for all pomegranate juice producers to ensure their labels communicate clearly the origin and actual ingredients of their products," said Tupper.
Pomegranate juice has ridden the wave of interest in superfruits such as goji and acai – most of which are marketed on their boosted antioxidant levels.

Patchy paper trail at fault in pomegranate case

By Shane Starling

Nutra-Ingredients Newsletter

25-Jul-2008 – A pomegranate juice manufacturer that has been ordered by a Californian court to pay $1.5m to market leader Pom Wonderful for making false and misleading claims, has highlighted supply chain issues.

The Court found California-based Purely Juice was selling products as "100% pure pomegranate juice" when they were in fact primarily "cane sugar and corn sweetener" and contained "little pomegranate solids".

It also found Purely Juice, which has annual revenues of $10m, failed to withdraw the product long after it became aware, via in-house as well as third party testing, that its products were adulterated.
Purely Juice denied it took no action once the adulteration issues came to its knowledge, and says the initial problem was caused by suppliers that handed it Certificates of Authentication (CofA) that falsely guaranteed batch purity.
Purely Juice president Paul Hachigian said his company had worked with its supplier, Perma Pom, to iron out the problem and that retailers had remained onboard since being alerted to the issue by Pom Wonderful, at the beginning of 2007.
"We stopped shipping as soon as we became aware of it and that is why the court decision is so disappointing," he told "We have since instigated third party testing above and beyond industry standards to guarantee our supply."

Hachigian said his company did not intend taking legal action against Perma Pom, contrary to press reports.

Supply lines

Pom Wonderful spokesperson Rob Six noted booming demand for pomegranate products – typically marketed on their enhanced antioxidant levels – had placed a massive strain on a supply chain that was as a result being compromised.
Pom Wonderful, which notched sales of $165m in 2007, managed to dodge most of these problems because it is the only totally vertically integrated pomegranate juice maker, sourcing all of its product from 18,000 acres of the Pom Wonderful variety it grows in the Californian San Joaquin valley.

"We are in the process of planting more orchards that will come online in the next five years," Six told "We are confident we will be able to meet demand."

Hachigian agreed product quality was more difficult to guarantee from newer groves in the Middle East and Asia, but noted concerns over the validity of CofAs were not unique to the pomegranate industry.

"This is a common practice that has been going on in orange, apple – all the fruits – for decades," he said. "Companies try to reduce costs by testing randomly but we have learnt that you have to test every batch and that is what we are doing now."

The supply quality problem was not restricted to Purely Juice as Pom Wonderful warned some ten companies that their juice was adulterated.
Six said the companies it warned took action to remedy the situation except Purely Juice, and it was only after repeated warnings, that it pursued a court action, an accusation Purely Juice disputes.
He said Pom Wonderful felt it had a right to protect the category from damage caused by players releasing products that fail to meet consumer expectation.
Pom Wonderful continued to test products, Six said, to ensure they met label claims and had accepted a role as industry watchdog.
"We created this category in 2002 and it is a premium category – it is driven by a clinically-backed health benefit," he said.
"Consumers buy the products to gain the health benefit – if that is not present then there are problems for the category. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should be more active in this area but we all know how under resourced they are. We are trying to protect the integrity of the category."
Pom Wonderful typically retails for $4.49-$5.49 per 16-oz bottle, while Purely Juice sells at $3.99.
Pom Wonderful is also present in Canada, entered the UK market in 2007 and was about to launch a major marketing campaign there.
It plans to expand into Australia and other European markets by year’s end.

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  1. Pom does it again | Daniel Lubetzky said:

    [...] POM has such an awesome marketing muscle, has been such a remarkable leader in the food industry, and consumers seem to be looking for "buzz (energy) plus health," that this could be a [...]

  2. AJ said:

    What all of these articles have failed to mention is the fact that Paul Hachigian was in the VP of Marketing position at POM’s sister company Paramount Farms. He had an integral role in marketing and testing the juice. Seems a shame that after he was released from PFI, instead of using his own marketing experience and knowledge, he decided to get into a business from which his knowledge came directly via POM.

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