Shaping Youth Slams Capri Sun With Counter-Marketing

caprisunstrawberry.GIFTiming is everything! This week we’re counter-marketing Capri Sun Coastal Coolers as ‘juice pouches that aren’t juice’ but mostly high fructose corn syrup. (HFCS)

We’ve been using Capri Sun label lingo as an example of misleading claims…Lo & behold:

48 hours ago, Center for Science in the Public Interest launched a lawsuit against Kraft for falsely claiming Capri Sun is “All natural!”

Now if I can just get CSPI’s media release translated into Spanish in time for our session, it will literally drive the point home to both kids and parents. (since we’ll put the materials in their backpacks!)

In addition to counter-marketing and obesity prevention programs, here’s an excellent list of policy options to shift toward health and wellness for kids.

Media will no doubt pick up on the new CSPI lawsuit and run with it, which should heighten awareness and add clarity to parent’s pickings when it comes to ‘grab-n-go’ choices.

Sadly, the ONLY way junk food marketers seem to dial down their messaging is when media moguls or legal beagles throw cold ice over their heads. Can’t get much “Cooler” than that…

It’s kind of like the fast food trans-fat removal I wrote about awhile back, it took New York’s mass media attention to end up with new federal regulations for labeling trans-fats.

But I echo the ‘junk is junk’ trans-fat replacement premise in this week’s Appetite for Profit blog, as it applies to Capri Sun sweeteners too…Whether they use HFCS or some other kind, it simply has no nutritional value.

Our materials for “Dare To Compare: A Gross Out Game for Good Nutrition” headline Capri Sun as “Liquid Candy: Don’t Be Fooled By Juice Pouches That Aren’t Juice!”

Juice pouches should be labeled “100% juice” along with any ‘natural’ claim, and even 100% juice is packed with sugar which can pack on the pounds!

Kids will be dissecting and ‘rebuilding’ Capri Sun-style drinks to dramatize our point that this “flavored juice drink blend” is nowhere near “All Natural.”

It offers ‘empty’ calories and is not ‘real’ fruit juice at all, unless you count the measly 10% quotient.

We’re also countering-market claims with label literacy as the kids take a hands-on crack at being ‘advertisers’ to ‘create a package’ for their beverage too.

Media literacy-wise, as the “official beverage of the AYSO,” Capri Sun sports a particularly confusing message!

It really irks me that any energy run off on the soccer field is negated by pouring sugary slop down kids’ tummies.

Harried parents see the soccer logo tie-in, active sports graphics and giant-sized fruit plastered all over the package and ‘grab-n-go’ without reading the label?

Only explanation I can muster.

As for the HFCS, it’s cheaper than table sugar, so companies use it to increase product profitability, stabilize freshness and extend shelf life. That means it’s virtually EVERYwhere in food these days, not just Capri Sun.

Part of our kids’ label literacy ‘scavenger hunt’ game at the grocery stores is to counter-market HFCS in the Capri Sun session and then have kids hunt for it in unlikely products.

It’s at the top of the list of ingredients in some unlikely faves, from Nutri-grain bars and cereals to more predictable junk food items like Sunny D. (another orange drink in color but not remotely resembling juice) and Lunchables.

Here’s a handy list of grocery items with HFCS from the Accidental Hedonist, and a fast food HFCS list from the Food Facts blog.

The molecular science of high fructose corn syrup may well be over the heads of these 5th graders, but we’ll touch on the basics just as CSPI did in explaining that it’s a man-made ingredient no more harmful than other sugars…Although…

UCSF research suggests central nervous system insulin resistance with fast food, and many nutritionists believe HFCS shifts metabolism that governs appetite control, prompting an insatiable urge for ‘more.’

Considering HFCS intake has skyrocketed, you’d think there would be more concrete studies and research out there since it’s dominating our food supply.

In the 1970s when the technology for HFCS was developed, America’s daily HFCS calorie intake was 2…In 2003, it was 205. Causal link to obesity?

Not yet ‘proven’ but many articles finger it as a possible culprit…along with portion distortion, marketing deregulation and various other ‘food turned into science’ factors.

Here’s a simpler primer on how HFCS differs from regular corn syrup by Eric Wald of the University of Michigan MFIT community health promotions department.

As CSPI says, “high fructose corn syrup may SOUND like it comes from corn in the same way sugar comes from sugar cane or sugar beets, BUT…”

“…HFCS is created by a complex industrial process performed in refineries using centrifuges, hydroclones, ion-exchange columns, backed-bed reactors and other high-tech equipment.

Starch is extracted from corn and then converted by acids or enzymes to glucose. Then some of the glucose is further converted by enzymes into fructose. HFCS has only been widely used in food since the 1980s.”

CSPI also mentions “while the glucose and fructose in HFCS are identical to naturally occurring glucose and fructose, the fact that chemical bonds are broken and rearranged in their production disqualifies them from being called natural.

For instance, while a scientist might be able to produce sugar by rearranging the molecules of any number of things that contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, it clearly wouldn’t be “natural” sugar.”

Speaking of food science…has anyone blogged much about the trend toward food cloning?
Talk about the need for label literacy and media watchdogs on the FDA policy.

Food marketers will find a way to spin it I’m sure…gee, then I’ll have a whole new kids’ media literacy topic. Maybe organic marketers will even begin to benefit from a Frankenfood backlash derived from consumer fear and hesitation?

Kids may end up ordering their ice cream cones, “Clone Free, please.”

Hold the HFCS too.



  1. Outstanding points, as always.

    I’d also like to reinforce my own personal outrage over food marketing labeling using phrases just like you referenced when CSPI sued Kraft regarding “All Natural”. “All Natural” does not mean anything more than it was derived from natural sources; it doesn’t mean “it’s good for you”, but it sounds good — so it’s a great message for the marketers. (Crude oil is also natural, for example, as are poisonous mushrooms, but I wouldn’t feed either of them to my children, either.)

    Then there are some of my own personal favorites, such as the time that I saw a Life-Savers ad saying they they were “fat-free”, and the many labels saying “Low Cholesteral” on products that are STILL not healthy for you. It’s a marketing game, and even if it is technically accurate to label things in these ways, it shouldn’t be allowed.

  2. Dont throw AYSO into this one. It’s a organization who helps children get active and become good sportsmen/women. Capri sun is a major sponsor and we need as many as we can get.

    I still stay it’s healthier for my child to go to practice 2 times per week for 2 hours plus have a very intense soccer match (he’s 14 so yes, it is very intense) and drinking capri sun than to sit in his butt playing video games and drinking 100% fruit juice!

    Just an analogy but also for your information in the 9 years my son has played soccer Capri Sun has never given us drinks for games or practices, only money for sponsorship.

  3. AYSO is certainly worthy, but I maintain they’re sending a very mixed media message there.

    Why can’t they get their funding from a healthier sponsor? If the activity level is so high, the ‘sports drinks’ (which I normally would bash as needless sugar water for those just hangin’ in low level activity in the outield or bench-warming) sound like they’d be a more logical fit?!

    As for not serving the actual pouches, AYSO is still sanctioning the brand by associating their logo/name.

    HFCS does nada for kids’ nourishment, and AYSO deserves better.

    In fact, these particular partnerships are the MOST heinous, I believe, for they consistently confuse and lure uninformed consumers who take a quick glance at the logo and buy by association/trust of AYSO rather than reading the ingredients.

    No matter how much they ‘burn off’ HFCS concoctions have no merit in hydration, nourishment, or even ‘energy’ other than for a short burst of caloric fuel. Liquid candy.

    AYSO needs to take responsibility for finding a stronger sponsorship partner who can follow through with their activity message. (Look at Lance Armstrong who insisted his big money backing from Coke shift to their Dasani water brand instead.)

    It can be done.

  4. Hi! i’ve been wanting to get in touch with you – i think you responded to a post of mine and we connected somehow through Britt Bravo’s blog. We (Urban Sprouts) do garden-based nutrition education and we’d love to do more with kids around marketing. email me so we can talk more! abby at urbansprouts dot org.



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