Coca-Cola-owned Vitaminwater has agreed to make certain labeling changes as part of a legal settlement with a health group that has criticized the brand's marketing practices.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, or CSPI, filed a lawsuit against the company in 2009, alleging that Vitaminwater made deceptive claims by using healthy-sounding buzzwords such as "focus" and "endurance." The settlement agreement, which has been filed in a federal court in New York, lays out ten statements that Vitaminwater cannot use in its marketing or labeling.
The banned statements include "vitamins + water = what's in your hand," "this combination of zinc and fortifying vitamins can . . . keep you healthy as a horse" and "specially formulated to support optimal metabolic function with antioxidants that may reduce the risk of chronic diseases and vitamins necessary for the generation and utilization of energy from food."
A CSPI spokesman said Coca-Cola began removing many of the statements at issue after the group filed its lawsuit, but that the deal ensures those changes will be permanent.
A Coca-Cola spokeswoman said the company was pleased to reach a resolution. "Although we remain confident in our legal position, it simply made no sense to continue this costly legal battle," she said.
The settlement also forces the brand to add the words "with sweeteners" on two parts of the label near the brand's name. According to CSPI, Vitaminwater has 32 grams of sugar, equaling about eight teaspoons.
Of late, Vitaminwater has used the tagline "Hydrate the Hustle." A TV spot running nationally last year featured comedian Kevin Hart, who touted the brand as providing "hard-working hydration." The brand's website, meanwhile, includes playful messages describing the brand's multiple flavor varieties. For instance, the red-colored "power-c dragonfruit" flavor carries the message "doesn't 'power-c' sound way cooler than 'vitamin c'? we thought so, too." The "xxx acai-blueberry-pomegranate" variety is described as "the kind of xxx you can consume in front of your mother."