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SoBe settles over drink health claims

12-Jan-2005

Connecticut-based beverage company SoBe - South Beach Beverage Company - has paid a $219,000 penalty for falsely claiming that its drinks protect against colds and other illnesses and increase energy levels.

SoBe, which was bought by PepsiCo in 2001, was pulled up by the Connecticut attorney general's office and department of consumer protection over the claims on advertising and packaging.

Drinks manufacturers are increasingly moving towards alternatives to sugary soft drinks in response to the rising consciousness of health issues. Other so-called "healthier" drinks within the PepsiCo fold include Tropicana, Lipton Iced Tea and Aquafina purified drinking water.

Reuters reported last month that the low-calorie juice drinks market is expected to continue increasing by 30 to 40 percent over the next few years.

In 2003 volume sales of bottled water, including vitamin added varieties, grew by almost 22 percent and non-carbonated drinks by 4.7 percent, compared with growth of just 1 percent for carbonated soft drinks.

However there is a clear line between advertising vitamin enrichment or a lower sugar, calorie or carbohydrate content and making unsubstantiated claims that it will ward off illness.

"Duping customers into believing that a flavored beverage will stop illness, enhance memory or reduce stress is deceptive and deplorable," said Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal.

A SoBe spokesperson pointed out that the claims have not appeared on bottles of the beverage for the last two years.

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